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
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
- Here’s One For You
- You Are All My Own Invention
- Dividing Line
- Under A Sun
- Till The Morning
- Closing Up
- My Time Alone
- Warning Song
- So Here Be Well Again
- My Boat
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