Debut album from Paisley miserablists. Melancholic acoustic songs interspersed with lo-fi home-recorded experiments.
released January 31, 2008
'Autumn Might Have Hope' was recorded at home by Fraser McGowan.
Mastered by Jonathan Common, February 2006
All tracks written by Fraser McGowan and Colin Morrison, lyrics by Fraser McGowan.
Music by Small Town Boredom.
Performed by Fraser McGowan, Colin Morrison, Richard Kengen, Gavin Crawford,
Jonathan Common, Dorothy Hill & Patrick Porter
Cover artwork by Pauline Reid, layout & design by Tiny Records
Small Town Boredom are Fraser McGowan and Colin Morrison from Scotland.
Their seminal debut album of quiet melancholic lo-fi torch songs, ‘Autumn Might Have Hope’, was released by The Remains Of My Estate in late 2007. The unwavering band and label ethos 'to make something of beauty' meant that the record was released as a limited vinyl LP with download, resulting in minimal promotion but warm acclaim.
A soundtrack for intense self-reflection, ‘Autumn Might Have Hope’ forges affecting melodies from delicate instrumentation, subtle field recordings and lo-fi ambient experiments.
Songs are achingly paced and underpinned by dark, confessional lyrics, sung with uniquely heavy-hearted vocals which were described by one critic as 'exuding a kind of lethargy of broken dreams'.
Their second album, 'Notes From The Infirmary', was released in 2010 and returns to the fragile arrangements and hushed vocals that made their debut such a vital record. However the sound is more focused, starker, and fraught. Following the warm melancholic haze of ‘Autumn Might Have Hope’, ‘Notes From The Infirmary’ feels immersed in the cold light of a new day, with anguished electric guitars and percussion, and culminating in a fall-out of feedback, screaming vocals, and finally lethargy and hopelessness.
There has been just one recording since, the track ‘Polaroids For The Coming Winter’ which appeared on the compilation ‘Trampoline Presents’.
However Fraser McGowan remains active with the solo project Caught In The Wake Forever.
Small Town Boredom are an aptly named duo from Paisley, consisting of Fraser McGowan and Colin Morrison. Their debut album Autumn Might Have Hope was released through Trome Records in 2008, and despite arriving to it late I've become quite transfixed by it's perfectly languid encapsulation of the frustrations of both small town life and small town mentality. There's a sense of hopelessness which permeates the low key compositions, sculpted primarily through acoustic instrumentation and the odd swell of subtle electronics. The key ingredient though is the vocals, which exude the kind of lethargy of broken dreams. The songs are hushed and intimate, like whisperings of thoughts which you try not to dwell on for too long and never quite break to the forefront. The lyrics are delivered with such blunt honesty though that it's impossible not to confront the issues dealt with, particulalrly given the relative sparsity of the production.
There are no bona-fide stand out tracks as such, but that's more down to the coherence of the album as a whole. Having said that For Today I Missed the Dawn Break is beautiful song, the simple guitar melody sounds like something which I've known for years. It's more than that though, it's the whole atmosphere which pervades the track, it's smoky air of drunken confession is heart wrenching in a way that words on a computer screen can't entirely capture, it's certainly far more than the sum of it's parts. These kinds of little flourishes such as the macabre spoken word intro of Sympathy for the Drowning or the delicate tribal like percussion on Elder Park & All That Followed lift this album out of it's dank depression and inject it with a playfulness which makes the dusty lo-fi miserabilia even more affecting. This is an album which seems to have gone criminally under appreciated, and I'd thoroughly recommend tracking it down before the second album, due later this year.
- Sonic Reverie
Maybe it can sound as a cliché, but the dull greyness of British province towns seems to be a prerequisite for creating lots of music originated from there, so that Hood even spoke of the "small town boredom" as a source of artistic inspiration and primary raison d'etre of the band. The same definition distinguishes now, since its designation, a duo from the Scottish town of Ralston, in Renfrewshire. Whether this is casual or not, simply the choice of this evocative expression is enough to describe the mood of the music by this duo composed of Fraser McGowan and Colin Morrison, that finally reached the debut album after a couple of EP's dating back to 2004-2005 biennium.
The arrangements' delicacy, the simplicity of the guitar chord and the occasional piano make it almost inevitable thinking of the inextricable and sweet melancholy of Dakota Suite, and so also the soft and always very sober singing of the two voices, often woven to create enchanted melodies, animated by a surprised candor that at times recalls the softest and intimist Neil Halstead.
Although their musical framework of reference doesn't deviate from melancholic songwriting, Small Town Boredom manage to excel both for the mild approach and their disenchanted lyrics and for sound solutions that balances the prevalent acoustic notes with a series of tiny field recordings, underwater in almost all songs and sometimes springing over their surfaces, often placed in their initial and final steps to create a sort of frame to sleepy melodies and haunting whispers of the many mid-fidelity torch-songs contained in this album. Since its start, "Autumn Might Have Hope" wraps in an embrace of evanescent apathy, introducing in a dream told subheading and intended to remain such, how we can seize from the constant sense of lack of the lyrics, perfectly complemented by a guitar picking full of indolent grace and nightly harmonies, yet able to gently dissolve any risk of excessive oppression. Even when the Scottish duo sings of distant memories and sentimental loneliness, the tone always remains light, in the most classic tradition of British pop, communicating that feeling of a sorrow to almost taste with delight, that only a few great artists are able to express (in addition to the above-mentioned Dakota Suite, you can also think of Barzin and the Montgolfier Brothers).
The same goes for the sound, focused on suspended notes and on the repetition of dry rhythms, also enriched by some electric grafts, which underline emotional twists of bitter sweetness, combining acoustic slowness, melodic lo-fi lightness and more rough passages, in a style halfway between Boduf Songs and Rivulets. But more than these artists' music, here there is the typically British "pop" attitude and an everlasting adolescent spirit, which make "Autumn Might Have Hope" a hidden jewel full of emotional authenticity, far from depressive even in its more intense songs such as "The Great Lodging" and "Monday Night HOPE Group", discreetly laying on the ridge between hope and disillusionment and in a fall of the soul ever so sweet and comforting.
(Kindly translated from Italian by Raffaello Russo) 8/10
- Raffaello Russo, Ondarock
Certi dischi richiedono un ascolto stagionale. Propongono il proprio fascino per alcuni seletti giorni dell’anno, nei quali riescono a schiudere le loro bellezze che in altri momenti ci appaiono solo fastidiosi artifici. Stagioni dell’animo, per lo più, si intende: “Autumn Might Have Hope” o lo si ascolta in autunno, o in giorni in cui pare di essere in autunno, giorni in cui le cose attorno o dentro di noi si sfaldano. Solo così può arrivarci senza tramiti tutto il suo assopimento incantato.
Composto da due scozzesi (Fraser McGowan e Colin Morrison) affascinati dall’apatia provinciale, il disco – pubblicato, per il momento, solo in vinile – è un esperimento monotematico piuttosto interessante. Un disco che gioca sulla ricostruzione nostalgica di un esilio soporifero dove scivolare, sulla dolcezza della malinconia, sull’immobilità atemporale e atonale delle dimensioni ‘in minore’.
Un folk lo-fi e minimale, smaccatamente fatto-in-casa, è il rivestimento scelto dagli Small Town Boredom: arpeggi di chitarra, un pianoforte che emerge carsicamente, violino, organo, batteria esilissima, scarti no-fi a rendere più fisico l’intimismo, una voce volutamente spenta, sfibrata, quasi atarassica, che accenna i testi sottovoce, come nelle pause tra i singhiozzi, come indebolita dal dolore e dalla volontà di arrendersi al silenzio. È un album snervato, pallido, tubercolotico, di un convalescente che non vuole guarire, anzi, di un sano che vagheggia la malattia, e allora si rifugia nella quiete imperturbabile dei villaggi sperduti per condividerne il senso di fragile impotenza.
Sono motivi poetici, già assai poetizzati (i crepuscolari, da noi). E difatti molti brani affascinano, rapiscono chi ascolta in una quiete di caligini e brughiere, lontanissima dai turbinii metropolitani. “Apologies For Apathy” (titolo esemplare: l’apatia è sentita come colpa per la quale scusarsi, ma resta condizione inevitabile), in apertura, è una deliziosa ballata dell’introversione, mentre “Understanding Blackness”, in chiusura, ha qualcosa dei momenti catatonici dell’ultimo Scott Walker.
Ma sono molti i pezzi che scavano in profondità con le loro note rade e scheletriche: “Elder Park & All That Followed” è dolce e triste chamber pop, melodicamente struggente nell’alternanza delle due voci; “Sympathy For The Drowning” si snoda in un torpore profondo, tra una batteria accidiosa e una voce flebilissima; “The Great Lodging” preferisce accordi pieni e qualche sterzata di elettrica sullo sfondo che sanno di motel abbandonati su strade secondarie.
I testi parlano di esclusione, solitudine, aridità, incomprensioni, asimmetrie sentimentali ("you were in the bathroom falling apart, I was in the front room resting my heart”, in “Our Valentines Day Rebellion”), con frequenti rimandi alla toponomastica locale (Thornhill Road, Elder Park, Crookston Line) che aiutano ad immergersi nel bagno di brume nordiche, come in un veleno.
Perché sprofondare, allora, in questo trionfo di decadenza, in questo vagheggiamento post-moderno di uno spleen di altri tempi? Perché ancora la provincia, la malattia, la noia, l’autunno, i parchi desolati, gli amori infelici? Perché amare un brano come “Fireworks”, due minuti abissali di voce e pianoforte color seppia? Perché non farsi venire qualche perplessità da questo intontimento senza via di scampo, alternativa, prospettiva di rinvigorimento, da questo progetto in cui tutto, moniker copertina e titoli, sembra orchestrato in modo sospettosamente programmatico? Perché lasciare che l’accasciamento dilaghi? A ciascuno la risposta, perché ciascuno ha i propri autunni. Rating 3.5/5
- Francesco Targhetta - Storiadellamusica
...Next up two LP’s from London based label The Remains of My Estate. First up the slow, rainy day songs of Small Town Boredom, whose album “Autumn Might have Hope”, mixes the songs of loneliness with touches of experimentation, ripples of percussion and sparse instrumentation. Aching in its intent the band sound like a Scottish version of Low or The Red House Painters, maintaining their quality throughout the album, one to play whilst watching the rain drip off the garden leaves.
Rumbles written by Simon Lewis and Steve Palmer - Terrascope Online
...Also from the same source is the debut album, vinyl again, from a Scottish outfit called Small Town Boredom which is centred around Fraser McGowan and Colin Morrison who, for the purpose of gigs and recording, are bolstered by a quintet of hired hands from other local groups in the Paisley area. The carefully measured spoonfuls of (mostly) acoustic guitar, breathy vocalese, sparse keys and minimal percussion make the ‘Autumn Might Have Hope’ collection a brittle-as-a-leaf-skeleton series of melancholic vignettes where even the merest hint of extra instrumentation would surely tip the delicate balance that the duo have perfected. Small Town Boredom have certain similarities to some Postcard bands from the near past, but in this case the standard, received allegiances that Edwin and Roddy pledged (Love, third album Velvets etc) are somehow overturned in favour of Terrascope favourites Hood (in earlier times), The Clientele and even a favourite obscurity of mine, Crabstick.
- Rumbles written by Steve Pescott - Terrascope Online
In the flurry of genre tags and the "next best" fads, some styles remain constant. Thankfully liquor sodden acoustic antecedes and will outlast any musical revolution. You're only an alcoholic if you drink alone, so take comfort in UK friends Small Town Boredom.
On their debut LP, Autumn Might Have Hope, singer Colin Morrison whispers haunting tales of love and loss with exasperated delivery. The record is refreshingly simplistic and straight-forward with an immediate message of relatable themes. With lo-fi acoustic as all-encompassing a term as post-rock, the minimal production effects accentuate the aching vocals and barely-there finger-plucks rather than overpower the endeavor, and keep the vibe more smokey-dive than raucous stomp-along.
Luckily, Morrison's spacey, sullen whispers range in several tints. "Apologies for Apathy" exudes a resilient vibe of determination with the dual vocals backed by a climbing organ. "The Great Lodging" is a haunting melody of ghostly echoes with a much needed electric guitar buzz. Huzzah. Most of the time I have no idea what Morrison says—though whenever he whispers, "sorry" is never far behind. The hushed delivery and jarbled sentences create sort of a Pocahaunted coo and wail fest, another layer of ambience, and while the dense reverbed mumbles slay alone, the decipherable lyrics stay hit or miss; they span from immature moping (“my heart is still burning") to ephemeral wisdoms (“disregard truth / lie endlessly”). “Apologies for Apathy” is probably the strongest cut on the album, fully fleshed out with killer vox call and response that soothes as it reminisces about “memories in the Fall.”
Still, some of my favorite moments are on the instrumental tracks where the production takes center stage. “Williams Summer Blues” creates a hypnotic effect with driving dual acoustics and “On the Crookston Line” is a brisk lo-fi diddy. Autumn can feel twice its fifty-minute length, and these interruptions help ease the draining listen. In fact the production is the highlight of Autumn; songs devolve into an experimental pulse and clear-cutting spoken word moments rip through the dense melody.
STB shapes intensely personal and introspective tunes, more therapy than entertainment. This is their biggest strength and weakness. Autumn is a soundscape of STB's own experiences, never catering to the audience, and even the briefest of visits can try your patience. Naturally it's an absolute grower and, if you have the patience or the purpose, is perfect for those "quiet backwards moments."
- James Anaipakos, - The Silent Ballet
Sometimes I wish I was Simon Cowell. Not very often but sometimes. To have the power to pretty much pick and choose which new pop band pollute our ears. I like to think I would be somewhat less power mad and money greedy (but you never can tell). Take moment with me and hoick your trousers up, now imagine if you were Simon, who would you thrust upon the public. Imagine (if you can) a Simon who wants to use his powers for good, to pick a band of such extreme quality and beauty that everyone deserves the chance to hear them. I know people are not puppets, you can not tell them what to like, I would let everyone hear “Small Town Boredom”. They herald from Paisley on the west coast of Scotland. I used to live there. I had a flat for three years just round the corner from the university. I only stayed there for a short while but in a space of three months I suffered four car crimes (vandalism and theft). We moved and I decided there was little of beauty in that city. Until I discovered “Small Town Boredom”. Their debut album “autumn might have hope” is an elegant and unassuming collection of beautiful songs with magical vocals and tender musical accompaniment. Opening with “apologies for apathy” it sets the scene for a very Zephyrs esque recording, opting for a delicate approach to power. Throughout the album we hear the strong confident words of a father to his first born child rather than a youthful teenager drunk and ready to fight. The album continues in this manner providing us with masterpieces like “elder park and all that followed” and “for today I missed the dawn break”. There are touches of local Scot heroes “The Sky at Night” but “Small Town Boredom” bring a little more to us as listeners. Their songs seem to musically hint at something just out of reach, as though they are sharing a secret, sharing something very special that we are so close to comprehending. They are our mother and our father, they’re our blanket, they’re the warmth and the light and they will never betray us. I have seen them live and they are not afraid to rock out but their true genius lies in the simple fact that “Small Town Boredom” are skilled song writers and on 'Autumn...' might have hope they stick to doing what they do well.
- GH - Musicspotlight
A vinyl only release of sadly hushed singing tones, quietly strummed acoustic songs and moody bedroom recording experiments. Fans of Hood will appreciate the down-tempo vibes and ambient waves. If I was forced to come up with a new genre of music I'd call this lo-fi bedroom folk. If I was being belligerent (which I admit I sometimes am here at the towers) I would maybe implore the singer to lighten up, get out more and also to give out a little more. This way, maybe he'd belt out his songs with a little more gusto. On the contrary though, if he took any heed of poor music retailers like myself, his forte of bruised fragility wouldn't come across in such an achingly blue way. Which I think is probably the key selling point of this LP.
- Norman Records