I Feel Fine – ‘The Cold In Every Shelter’

By Sean Reid

Some people believe that the UK emo music scene has long lived in the shadow of its transatlantic counterparts. We, however, beg to differ. There have been bands who either were or are on par with familiar and influential American acts such as American Football, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Algernon Cadwallader, and we’re still producing them today. Amongst those currently flying the flag for UK emo are I Feel Fine, and their new record ‘The Cold In Every Shelter’ sees them tighten their grip on it.

Their 2018 EP outing, ‘Long Distance Celebration’, was cemented by its four-part gang vocals, impassioned lyricism, and a blend of catharsis and optimistic emotion. It’s provided the Brighton-based quartet a sturdy foundation to build on for their debut full-length. Straight away those gang vocals resonate on ‘Something New to Worry About’ as they question “why do we hide ourselves?” Backed by an earthly, textured sound with dynamic drum patterns from Antoine Mansion, it immediately sets the tone for the rest of the album.

‘Sail Maker’ is delivered with urgency, rushing out of the gates before momentarily settling down, leading into a celebratory conclusion full of clashing percussion and driving guitars. Mid-point highlight ‘Selfsame’ brings their emo/alt-rock credentials to the forefront. Drifting guitars eventually segue into impassioned layered vocals with striking chords.

Musically, guitarist Nathan Tompkins and Mansion, along with guitarist Joe Kool and bassist Jack Holland, effortlessly meander between emo, math-rock, lo-fi, and post-rock. ‘Elemenohpea’ rides on woozy math-rock guitar bends and soaring harmonies, creating a grandiose and dynamic sound in the process. Whereas ‘Where the Clouds End’ comfortably embraces an alt-country feel with twanging guitars.

Throughout, chief songwriter Tompkins threads a narrative of insecurity, trying to find purpose. For example, ‘Million’ compels you with gorgeous reined guitars, yet the repeated line of “what’s my colour? where’s my honour? I’m still working at what is mine” is what truly hits you. Furthermore, ‘The Ladder’, the aforementioned ‘Sail Maker’ and closing track, ‘Fold’ maintain the theme of Tompkins’ uncertain self-assurance. It provides lyrical vulnerability, countering some of the album’s musically colourful moments.

Although ‘The Cold In Every Shelter’ is carried by relatable insecurity, strong and rich musicianship, and an all-around sense of unity amongst the members of I Feel Fine, the characteristic of gang vocals slightly detracts from the album’s lyrical core. At times, it becomes a trait that is over-used, but this is a minor flaw within an applaudable first full-length.

While this isn’t a monumental shift from what they have previously released, ‘The Cold In Every Shelter’ allows I Feel Fine to comfortably define their sound. At times potent, sometimes majestic and collectively sentimental, it’s a record that doesn’t dwell on stylistic influences, but exudes pure honesty.

SÊAN REID

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