Amidst the turmoil that is 2020, Redwood are here to provide some audio comfort. Since 2016, the Hertfordshire quintet have created luscious soundscapes, treading the fine line between emo and post-rock. It’s no surprise, then, that a comparison to St. Louis group Foxing has often been made. 2018’s ‘Lay Your Love Down’ EP set the benchmark for ‘Beside A Shallow Sun’, their debut full-length; made up of 12 tracks, the five-piece have crafted a record that expands on the foundations made before it.
Early highlights ‘An Extension of Us’ and ‘Gemini’ emphasise Redwood’s ability to create radiance. Alex Birchall’s warm vocals combine with the sturdy rhythmic pairing of bassist Conor Bond and drummer Toby Fassioms, while on the latter, Jamie Richards adds urgency in the chorus with his lead guitar, controlling its tempo throughout. ‘Lilac’ follows in a similar manner, albeit with that Foxing comparison rearing its head. Even so, it’s a gorgeous, wistful number – throwing a hint of math-rock and a gigantic riff into their kaleidoscopic sound palette pays off.
It’s Redwood’s subtle musical scope that ties the album together. On ‘Ate My Weight’, Birchall’s pop sensibilities click with a dynamic rhythm section and energetic guitars, and the result is a dizzying delight. ‘Rumour Night’ shimmers along before an emotional explosion, as tranquil verses segue into a harmonious chorus with a succulent wall of sound. Later on, the pairing of ‘Fiending’ and ‘Blue Mountain’ embraces a towering rock-centric approach.
While they execute the quiet-loud-louder dynamic well, it is ‘Beside A Shallow Sun’s quieter moments that allow Redwood to shine lyrically. ‘Sit in Silence’ and ‘Nightshade’ allow Birchall to become the focal point, the former seeing him reflective and apologetic – “sorry if I’m not all the things you thought I was”, he sings against a steady-paced backdrop and stirring instrumentation.
‘Nightshade’ serves as a brief interlude with drifting percussion, a simple acoustic guitar and plucky lead guitar notes complimenting Birchall questioning “is that enough for you?”. It’s a delicate moment that gives way to the alt-rock leanings of ‘Fiending’. Ultimately, ‘Beside A Shallow Sun’ is threaded together by Birchall’s lyrical catharsis; the delivery of ‘Rumour Night’ supports the mental anxiety and chaos the vocalist is experiencing.
Where the album has its fair share of quieter moments, ‘Theme Park’ is a more intimate affair. Birchall’s reflective and optimistic words are supported by blissful guitars and a strong rhythmic section, while the riveting guitar solo brings a sense of fun to the track. As the title track calmly closes the album, Redwood leave you feeling wrapped up in a warm musical blanket. ‘Beside A Shallow Sun’ isn’t without its faults – there are moments where hints of experimentation aren’t completely executed, while the reliance on the quiet-loud-louder structure is a slight problem.
Despite this, for a debut album, Redwood have added to what is already a beautiful and colourful catalogue of songs. Musically, bold choruses (see ‘An Extension of Us’) and towering harmonies (‘Rumour Night’) complement an existing melting pot of emo, post-rock, indie-rock and math-rock. Anchored by emotive lyricism, the five-piece have made a record that is satisfying and reflective in equal measure.