Despite being stalwarts of the York music scene, it’s actually been years since The Blueprints released a good old-fashioned EP – but the wait is now finally over, with the band having released a new five-track record entitled The Shipping Forecast at the tail end of 2012. These are songs that you may well have heard if you’ve seen the band play live over the past couple of years, but here they sound more finely honed than ever – you can hear the results below.
Opening track ‘Walk’ is as fine an opening gambit as you could possibly hope for – contrary to its title, it gallops along at an invigorating pace, a blissful marriage of shimmering guitars, soaring vocals, chiming keyboards, propulsive drumming and subtly brilliant bass. If you think the band might have peaked too early, then fear not – ‘The Wave’ is as energetic as it is heartfelt. “I could teach you, if you’ll let me/to jump and jive and be closer to me,” the band sing in impeccable harmony, before lamenting that “No-one seems to dance in the old romantic way/too busy making sure hair stays straight.”
‘Black & Blue’ really emphasises its cheery, bouncing tempo by bringing keyboardist Tom Williams to the fore, while Sophie McDonnell provides gorgeous additional harmonies to bring out the wide-eyed hopefulness of the song’s chorus. And if that’s somehow not enough bang for your buck, then ‘Staring At The Sun’ is like two brilliant songs in one – starting out life as a rousing indie-pop stomper, before seamlessly transforming into its scintillating coda.
Final track ‘The Amber Ocean’ strips things back without losing any of the band’s indie-pop sensibilities, with Stuart Allan’s impassioned vocals and acoustic guitar lent a grandiose air courtesy of Rachael Brown’s cello playing – the song feels like it’s channeling the sadly departed spirit of Grammatics, which can only ever be a good thing.
As the EP’s title suggests, the sea is a recurring theme throughout these songs – not only is it referenced directly in song titles, but it’s also used as a metaphor throughout the record’s lyrics. ‘Walk’s protagonist is described as “displaying all the traits of a maritime disaster”, while navigating the relationship portrayed in ‘Black & Blue’ is compared to sailing a ship to shore – it’s a neat touch that serves to further tie this perfectly formed EP together. The Blueprints should be immensely proud of The Shipping Forecast – here’s hoping it helps them plot a favourable course through 2013.
The Shipping Forecast is available now on Sweet Sue Records, via Bandcamp.