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New Music: Horsebeach - Things To Keep Alive

Album cover for Things To Keep Alive, the latest album from Horsebeach. Available now from Applestump Records.

In 2014 I fell in love with a debut album from Horsebeach, the album was called Alone Together and at the time I threw all sorts of superlatives at it, and suggested that Ryan Kennedy aka Horsebeach was more than worthy of carrying the torch for the great songwriters that have changed the world from the North of England. There was something undeniably Northern about the sound of Horsebeach, the melancholy, the beauty in the greyness and the poetic lyrics. I remember being obsessed at the time with the lyric "Lying here next to me / Our lips entwined hopelessly" from Dull on the debut. I stood by my word at the time of writing the review, Alone Together is an album that I have returned to a great deal over the last ten years. What I have been guilty of though is not being as obsessed with the albums that followed the debut. There is no logical explanation for this, I listened to them on release and they are all good in their own way but they did not leave the same impression on me as Alone Together. 

Ten years on from Alone Together Horsebeach has returned with his latest offering Things To Keep Alive which bears the most resemblance to Alone Together, which explains why I have not stopped listening to this beautiful, mesmerising album this week and no doubt will play this album a lot this year and during the years to come. A Friend By The Lake opens the album and from the moment you press play you will fall in deeply in love with the warm, soothing sounds that capture the feeling of being reunited with a long lost friend, or in my case, being reunited with a lost cat this week after nine years apart (true story for another day). The drum machine, the chiming guitars, the dreamy vocals all combine to give this album an opening song that will capture the hearts and imaginations of listeners all over the world. In The Shadow of Her follows with a wonderful mix of explosive percussion, uplifting guitars, angelic melodies and vocals that deliver every lyric with passion and belief that will leave you holding on firmly to every sound you hear. A Fault of Us completes this hat trick of songs that have opened the album and will transport everyone within earshot to an alternative world. A world full of endless possibilities, a world full of dreams that feel within reach, dreams that never end, a world full of peace and love. You may feel I am being over romantic here but music can do all of that and more which is why I give so much of my time to it. It is about how it makes the listener feel, that connection you have to the songs and I would be surprised if anyone who gives this album the time it deserves does not feel any connection to Things To Keep Alive. 

In describing the album Ryan talks openly about how this album is a reflection on his own mental health during the period of writing the album. The importance of recognising the things that we need to do to take care of ourselves and look after our mental health. All that and more is captured in the title song. I am sure there will be many of us out there that will relate to the lyric "I find something in caring for the things that comfort me". If it's pop music that you like (which is what we all like if we are being honest with ourselves) there is plenty of perfect pop music to be found in Things To Keep Alive. Let Me Stay Tonight is full of laid back summery vibes with keyboards driving this song and taking the listener on a beautiful journey along the coast with nothing but blue skies and sunshine guiding the way. Until You continues in a very similar way, the keyboards and percussion give the song a very uplifting radio friendly sound, yes I know the likelihood of this song getting airtime is very slim but that is not the song's fault, this is a fantastic pop song that should be played on as many radio stations as possible. The lyrics give hope and show that no matter how down you may feel comfort can be found if you surround yourself with the right people "I was buried underground /  until you came as well / the dirt aside / you have freed me from the thought that suffocating me / and I know / i'm going to work it out". 

Cinnamon Challenge is a deeply personal and honest song about the struggles in life, how hard it can feel to step outside and not feel like you fit in, "And I don't like / The way it feels / When I step outside and I don't fit my skin" yet despite this it is important to carry on, important to care about yourself and you can overcome the challenges that life throws at you.  All of this is crafted with some fantastic guitar riffs, melodies and hooks that will take the listener on every winding path the song throws at you. Surprisingly, well it came as a surprise to me when first hearing the album on my morning run, the album gives us a cover of Pure Shores from All Saints which unbelievably is 24 years old. I don't think anyone can deny the greatness of Pure Shores as a pop song and Horsebeach has now lovingly put this song back on our radar. This version does not venture far from the original, when a song is this great you can't blame Horsebeach for just recreating the wonder of this pop classic. Colourless follows with guitars and vocals that will make the grey skies fade and leave you gazing out at the world and seeing nothing but endless blue skies. Tradition closes the album in a way that will further reinforce the argument that, through Horsebeach, Ryan Kennedy has given the world some of the most magical, most life affirming, most endearing pop songs that have come from Manchester. 

Things To Keep Alive is quite simply an album you can't ignore. It has made me question myself further as to why I have not paid as much attention to the albums that followed Alone Together. The only argument as to why I let them pass me by is down to connection and feeling, I felt such a connection to Alone Together and the others didn't quite hit those ridiculously high standards. I will certainly revisit those albums and give them more time.  What I am trying to say and conclude with is how Things To Keep Alive has instantly left a mark on me, has instantly given me a connection to the album and if you haven't already done so get yourself a copy now. If you love music which has been written from the heart, music that is Northern to its core then this is the album you need in your life right now. 

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