Wide-Eyed Nowhere

Turin Brakes

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Wide-Eyed Nowhere Review

by Mark Deming

At a time when the world is in chaos and most folks are confused about life's possibilities, what do you do? If you're the members of the British indie folk band Turin Brakes, you head over to the home of Olly Knights, who co-founded and leads the group with Gale Paridjanian, and you make some music. In the summer of 2021, while various social and political calamities were in play and the COVID-19 pandemic stubbornly refused to go away, Turin Brakes set up shop in a makeshift studio Knights set up near his garden, and they began work on their tenth studio album. 2022's Wide-Eyed Nowhere doesn't sound significantly more organic than the bulk of this group's previous work, though more than two decades on from their debut album, Turin Brakes could probably knock out clean and professional material in their sleep. However, if the performances and engineering are as sleek and well-executed as you would expect from this group, there is a sense of four people sitting around the campfire that lurks beneath the surface of these performances. There is a gentle sense of foreboding in "Up for Grabs" and "Into the Sun" that suits the intimacy of this project, while on the other hand, "Isolation" speaks of compassion in a time when loneliness is dragging so many people down, and "When You're Around" reminds us "there will always be rainbows when you're around." (The good cheer of the latter's message is slightly compromised by the final tune, "No Rainbows," but in this context, optimism still seems to be winning on points.) This sort of moody contemplation suits Turin Brakes quite well, and their trademark blend of acoustic guitars, subtle electronics, and carefully studied harmonies is the ideal match for the sadly sweet navel-gazing dominating the material. Lyrically, this isn't that much of a stretch from what these folks have made their stock in trade for about 20 years so far, but the melodies are often lovely, the harmonies are spot-on, and the instrumental work (by Knights and Paridjanian along with their longtime accompanists Rob Allum and Eddie Myer) is precise and intuitive. Wide-Eyed Nowhere is the musical equivalent of a warm cup of cocoa on a cold morning: it doesn't offer all the answers, but it's comforting and satisfying, and this sort of succor is just what Turin Brakes can best offer the world in 2022.

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