Beautiful vocals contrast against folk-laden indie to make an album of meaning that showcases a band with a true identity.
Cast your mind back to the first Covid lockdown of 2020 and a few things might come to mind: the unseasonable warmth, suddenly baking banana bread for the first time in your life, trying and failing to finish that jigsaw, and erm, no toilet rolls. But, unlike most of us, London-based indie quartet Night Flight actually did something constructive and worthwhile with their time and began work on what would become the arresting ‘Songs from Echo Zoo’.
“Paint me into a light / That I cannot see / Drop me into a life / That I cannot lead / Forget everything you know / Did I dream it? / I’m doing my best to let you know / That I mean it,” sings frontman Sam Holmes, showcasing his piercingly beautiful falsetto for the first time on the soft synth-tinged opener ‘Something Going On’. ‘High Fidelity’ sees Holmes looking back at his life at various stages and wondering if he’ll ever get to where he should be with music as his mistress (“Is this the life you wanna lead? Still reaching / Blame it on high fidelity / Is it OK to always be reaching? Blame it on high fidelity”).
‘Canada’ is a pure unadulterated love song to the country in question (“I hate it what you do to me / I find it so hard to leave / I’m head over heels in this country”) featuring some enchanting vocal harmonies provided by Camilla Stevely-Taylor. A slow dreamy affair ripe with strings, ‘Misery’ – with real shades of the much missed UK alternative folk band Dry the River – looks at the end of a failing relationship that leaves a sour taste no matter the good intentions: “I tried to justify it all when all had failed / But all I felt was misery / I tried to ask and rationalise the long goodbye / But all I felt was misery”.
Easily the rockiest of all the tracks, ‘Confetti’ has just the right amount of bite to the lyrics to match them with the one of the music: “Writhing in my supervision / I bleed for my liberation / I will take the fight to this old city / I will take a knife for the confetti”. The drum machine beats on ‘Sleeping in California’ set it apart, and with Holme’s breezy, light vocals, the song stretches and breathes to provide a pleasant 80s soft-pop feel that the War on Drugs would be jealous of.
Given the time this album was made it should be noted that while the isolated lockdown-era mindset comes through at times on songs like ‘Crazy (Work On Me)’ (“Well, I think I’m going crazy, baby / Lately I’ve been talking to you daily; save me / My state of mind is wrestling with my egocentric crimes”), overall, the imprint of the pandemic on the album’s lyrics is light and re assignable to something else – a welcome relief for anyone who has had their fill of songs bemoaning enforced solitude.
“The ‘Songs from Echo Zoo’ LP marks the end of the first chapter for Night Flight,” reflected Holmes of the album. “At the end of last year, our drummer Dan Webb left these shores to start a new life in Australia. It felt right to honour the amazing work Dan has put in over the years and finish this record before embarking on that next chapter.” Finishing the end of a chapter can be a sad thing, but when it’s as rewarding as this one is, there is a great joy in it, too; not to mention that with more chapters like this one, it’s shaping up to be a damn fine book.