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Witness UK
Under A Sun
MCA Records

The world of rock music has more than its share of angst, anger and rebellion—thus the basis of its appeal to many of its fans—but sometimes even rock needs to just relax and smile a bit. In that bright corner of music’s darkest soul, Witness UK has found their niche. With their second album, Under A Sun, Witness revisits the alt-country sound of REM, Train, and Del Amitri, and adds their name to the book of bands that refuse to become bitter. With an aching croon that is remarkably reminiscent of Dezeray’s Hammer frontman Aaron Whisnant, Witness lead singer Gerard Starkie explores human experience with unabashed vulnerability; the rest of Witness empathizes with Starkie through joyful heterophony and consoling harmonies. The result is both familiar and comfortable, like going home for the holidays.

Opening track "Here’s One For You" invites the listener to end their weary journey and rest with Witness for the 42-minute span of the disc. There is a good home, is a good home/Let it be known that you shouldn’t be alone/Here’s one for ya. From there, they drift between dreamy and organic for the majority of the album. Definitely leaning towards the organic side, second track "You Are All My Own Invention" embodies the rootsy middle-American attitude that they portray (even though they hail from Wigan, England) through a slightly out-of-tune piano, twangy guitars, and dense, female-driven harmonies. "Dividing Line" takes it even a step further and dances dangerously close to the dividing line (pardon the pun) between alt-country and straight up country-western, but before it dives into the land of Garth Brooks, it stops short, takes a bow, and tips its hat to Counting Crows, ending with a Duritz-ian piano flourish.

Title track "Under A Sun" turns a corner and introduces the next section of the album, which with its gentle ¾ time and soothing vocals serves almost as a lullaby, despite its melancholic lyrics. Maintaining the twilight atmosphere, "Till The Morning" goes so far as to even have nocturnal lyrics: So shine out a light so I can see where I’m gonna go/And take the chill out of night/Until the morning helps me out. Although not directly related, "Closing Up" maintains a similar atmosphere with weary vocals and poignant interplay between the lead guitar and the piano.

And then things begin to liven up. The next few tracks, "My Time Alone", "Warning Song", and "Mines", are cheerful, rousing songs of love and loyalty, life and…you know…vision tests. Yeah. They are followed up by "So Here Be Well Again", which beautifully segues into the final two tracks in a minor key and a haunting refrain. "Avalanche" is a short and sweet piece about life’s struggles, almost as if Witness were giving their listener one last piece of advice before bidding them farewell. Finally, Witness leaves us with "My Boat", which is a dramatic and gloomy song that is about, well, leaving.

Overall, Under A Sun is a beautifully produced, cohesive album. What it lacks in excitement, it makes up for with warmth and intimacy, and it certainly exudes plenty of both. If they continue to put forth albums of this caliber, Witness UK has a bright future ahead of them.

- Emily Strong

Track Listing:

  1. Here’s One For You
  2. You Are All My Own Invention
  3. Dividing Line
  4. Under A Sun
  5. Till The Morning
  6. Closing Up
  7. My Time Alone
  8. Warning Song
  9. Mines
  10. So Here Be Well Again
  11. Avalanche
  12. My Boat

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