‘From the outset, the album doesn’t hold back and has some of the band’s best work to date.’
Amber Run are a band most known for their haunting and goosebump-providing acoustic tracks, such as the phenomenal 5am or the heart-wrenching I Found, their third album Philophobia really embraces the heavier, darker themes of For A Moment, I Was Lost.
Philophobia opens with a welcoming piano track that slowly picks up momentum, getting progressively faster and creating a sense of both suspense and urgency; an almost anxiety-producing number that dives right into single Neon Circus — a sprawling, rock-fuelled affair filled with a pounding beat and an easy-to-pick-up chorus. From the outset, the album doesn’t hold back and has some of the band’s best work to date.
‘[Carousel and No One Gets Out Alive] are almost menacingly dark, partly due to the almost perversely satisfying bass lines that guide the songs which make them truly incredible..’
Philophobia manages to harness the exact energy previously demonstrated on No Answers on their sophmore effort; instead of relying almost solely on Joe’s voice, with almost electronic underlying musical accompaniment, it seems to give the band free musical license. Both Carousel (the lead single) and No One Gets Out Alive are highlights due to this simple fact. The songs are almost menacingly dark, partly due to the almost perversely satisfying bass lines that guide the songs which make them truly incredible.
‘The haunting vocals are both the highlight and the focus of [Affection]’
For those who prefer the emotional, almost sparse emotional heart-breakers, have no fear. Amber Run have you guys covered too, particularly with single Affection. The song is features Joe’s voice ebbing and falling over perfectly understated musical accompaniment; this remains when the drums break in at the onset of the second verse with them featuring in the background. The haunting vocals are both the highlight and the focus of the track. ‘All I want is that cold affliction/ Your Affection’ — despite being a love ballad, it manages to encompass the duality of the purpose-giving, passionate drive of love, as well as it’s truly soul-destroying reality. Immediately following are Medicine and I Dare You, two hauntingly atmospheric ballads, if in their own way: ‘I dare you/ to jump into that sweet unknown with me’, the chorus of I Dare You is able to represent the whole concept of love, in all of its terrifying, anxious mystery.
The Darkness Has A Voice, after this brief interlude, is the return of the band to a somehow both upbeat and crushing track — though it seems that description can be applied to their entire back catalogue. It starts slow and upbeat, catchy and easy to listen to, with high-pitching crooning that fades into the night of the song. Then the drums kick in; the song speeds up and begins building for a crashing crescendo, erupting into screams of ‘The Darkness Has A Voice Tonight’. Not particularly ground-breaking for the band, but a brilliant song nonetheless.
Entertainment is perhaps the darkest (and heaviest) track of the album, with the almost indiscernibly low-pitch of the baseline under accusatory and aggressive vocals. The highlight of the song is the instrumental bridge two minutes in — electronic distortion and some fragmented vocals which define the song. Aside from the expected perfection in lyrical and sung form it’s the instrumental side of the song that makes this the standout it is. Some may describe the track asn less Amber Run as a track, and more Muse-like; it possesses the same lofty vocals and powerful instrumental side. An incredible song.
Closing the album is Worship which is quintessential Amber Run; calming harmonies over piano, with the subtle introduction of some strings that manage to perfectly compliment the soulful singing. It’s a wonderful ballad, though perhaps would be better seated earlier in the album.
Philophobia is comfortably the most cohesive set of songs released by the band, and is sure to please lovers of both the mellow and the dark extremes of their catalogue. Philophobia has some of their best songs, and is the most interconnected set of tracks.
Words: James O’ Sullivan
4: O2 Ritz, Manchester
5: Rock City, Nottingham
6: O2 Academy 2, Birmingham
8: Wylam Brewery, Newcastle
9: SWG3 TV Studio, Glasgow
11: Y Plas, Cardiff
12: SWX, Bristol
13: MK11, Milton Keynes
14: Junction, Cambridge
16: Lemon Grove, Exeter
17: The Old Fire Station, Bournemouth
18: O2 Academy, Oxford
19: The Roundhouse, London
25: Trees, Dallas
26: The Parish, Austin
27: White Oak Music Hall, Houston
29: Masquerade, Atlanta
31: Black Cat, Washington D.C.
1: The Foundry, Philadelphia
2: Warsaw, Brooklyn
5: The Opera House, Toronto
6: Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland
7: Lincoln Hall, Chicago
8: Colectivo Coffee, Milwaukee
9: First Avenue, Minneapolis
12: Bluebird Theatre, Denver
13: The Complex, Salt Lake City
15: Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
16: Echoplex, Los Angeles
Tickets can be found here;