Borrowed Books are a new Edinburgh based band who can count among their members two luminaries. There’s Cam Fraser, ex of The Cateran, a Scottish band who more then held their own against the likes of Husker Du and even the mighty Nirvana back in the days. Alongside Fraser is Ray Neal, guitarist with Miracle Legion and now resident in the Athens of the north. The whys and wherefores of how these two teamed up are not explained but suffice to say that their album (with a line up completed by Aly Barr on bass, Chris archer on drums and Colin sands, piano) is an excellent listen with its heritage sound of REM like jangled glistening pop.
Theirs is a nuanced take on what some might call power pop. Opening number, Mountains In Oceans kicks off with a jangled guitar strum before the band weigh in with a sturdy beat. There’s a sense of melancholy to the song, heightened by a brief and tender middle eight. Gather is altogether more upbeat with piano and sparkling guitars allowing it a grand flourish while Selfish Act opens with a huge bass throb before lashing out in all directions creating a swell of guitars over its powerful propulsion.
That sense of melancholia glimpsed in the first song is amplified on Northerly with its majestic piano and pained vocals while Wooden Arm’s longing rumble with its ebbs and flows, and the crunching guitar attack of Kind Of Mean have a touch of Neil Young’s epic forays. Many of the songs share the dynamics on show here as the band sway rhythmically and then erupt into brief crescendos with This House Will Hold and Harbour Wall (both featuring accordion by Reuben Taylor) fine examples. Stripped back however, they can be equally potent. Altona is a breezy love song of sorts and the closing Things Put Away is a wonderfully realised confessional with exceptional piano from Sands while Neal’s guitar is pearlescent.
Aside from the lustre of the songs and playing, there’s much joy to be had from the lyrics throughout the album which, at times, approach the likes of Randy Newman, especially on Things Put Away. Shorting Out And longing is an album to savour and digest slowly. It’s well worth the effort.