Elbow Cast of Thousands

An ambitious sophomore release from the Manchester quintet who refer to themselves as "prog without the solos.” The record’s immediate appeal lies in the atmospheric, near-ambient musical arrangements driven by drummer Richard Jupp’s jazzy beats but repeat listens reveal the beauty of the ethereal vocal melodies. Vocalist Guy Garvey sounds like a composite of Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Doves’ Jimi Goodwin (who sings back-up on one track) and he does a wonderful job of injecting humanity into his imagery-laden lyrics. Every song on here offers something to the listener but the record really shines when the band employs the services of the London Community Gospel Choir. Album opener "Ribcage” is an epic, inspiring piece of music that is gloriously bombastic without being excessive. "Grace Under Pressure” is subtler but no less moving. Garvey sings a melodic mantra several times with building musical accompaniment before the songs shifts gears and you hear the crowd at this year’s Glastonbury Festival singing, "we still believe in love, so fuck you.” (V2)