Gig review: Stornoway, Glasgow School Of Art

Stornoway. Picture: PA

Stornoway. Picture: PA

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STORNOWAY are a splendid oddity. Despite the Hebridean origins of their moniker, they’re actually from Oxford.

Stornoway

Glasgow School Of Art

****

But their music, with its swooping melancholy and folk-panelled soul, is more attuned to remote island outposts than dreaming spires.

Current album, Bonxie, is named after a formidable Hebridean seabird. Avian imagery is something of an obsession – even their press release arrived in the shape of an origami bird. Singer-songwriter Brian Briggs looks like he might be more at home as the proprietor of a tiny village library specialising in ornithological reference books.

Field recordings of red grouse and humpback whales filter through songs of unrequited love and starstruck devotion that nestle snugly between those pillars of eccentric sensitivity, Jonathan Richman and Belle & Sebastian. They’re delightful.

Amusing in his nervy way, Briggs sings in a warm, keening whine as clear as mountain dew. As evinced by current single Get Low and the gentle reggae skip of Lost Youth, he’s an unprepossessing craftsman with a knack for nimble indie-pop. He even sparked a lusty crowd sing-a-long with the effervescent I Saw You Blink, a song enigmatically dedicated to “the Capaldi family”. A nod to the Art School’s time-travelling alumnus?

The undoubted highlight was Briggs’ spellbinding solo acoustic performance of November Song – sung off-mic in true tavern lament style – and the group’s a cappella harmonies on Josephine, during which they evoked a lonesome camp-fire Beach Boys. They took flight tonight, these charming men.

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