The best description I can afford this album is that it’s…nice. It’s undemanding and uncomplicated and has no really searing points to make at all. It plays out as a kind of breezy, sombre soliloquy where everything is taken far more seriously than it should be and the band act as though they’ve something of consummate importance to say on each subject. This is a feature of many chart rock bands, so that’s not necessarily a problem, but it does mean there’s little more on Almería than a passing and enjoyable listen.
The songs are decently imagined, rather endearing odes. Musically, they’re pitched in a manner that makes them sound almost carefree, despite the brooding weight with which vocalist Jason Wade delivers all his lines. Everything is expressed through a pseudo-melancholic, intensely serious haze which actually makes the songs sound quite synthetic and also ensures each one sounds fundamentally the same. There’s something of a discord between the preoccupation the band seems to have with what it’s saying and the complete lack of stirring or rousing impact most of them have on the listener. They struggle to properly communicate their point, meaning the album doesn’t really seem to add up to much. But this is not to impugn Almería entirely, rather, just a note that it doesn’t really come across as poignant or cathartic or prescient as it seems to think it is. Approaching these songs from a more neutral perspective, they are for the most part worthy and enjoyable pieces.
“Gotta Be Tonight” borrows a note or two from Aerosmith’s “Living on the Edge” to open the album with a nice rhythmic lilt. It has a wearied, weather-beaten, well-travelled air and sounds soothing and warm with immense heart. “Between the Raindrops” is of a similar, jaded ilk. It isn’t quite as immediately appealing as the opener, only really gathering momentum in its decisive and concerted chorus. Natasha Bedingfield makes a guest appearance on vocals but doesn’t really bring much by way of diversity.
It takes a while for the album to rediscover any energy following its spirited opener. It spends a great deal of time padding itself out with subtle effects and twists, as though it’s looking to add depth to its simplistic make-up. This does make it sound more interesting at times, but the overall effect is of laziness. It’s difficult to make a song sound meaningful when there’s nothing more bracing at its heart. “Nobody Listen,” amongst other tracks, pays the forfeit of this approach. It is more commanding than expected and Wade’s vocals are tempered and considerate, but the audio-bite interludes sound clichéd and derivative. “Where I Come From” relies upon the age-old string sample to enliven its emotional, pleading notes. It does sound sincere and its tentative guitar work is appealing, but it’s a stylistic ploy that we’ve heard too many times.
When Almería shrugs off this burdened solemnity however, it has a number of fine numbers. “Right Back Home,” which features Peter Frampton and Charles Jones, brings some much-needed exuberance to the album. It dispenses with the foggier aspects of the other songs and rings truer. “Moveonday” is similarly upbeat. It too has the token sage outlook but it uses same in an energetic and enthusiastic manner and feels fresher as a result.
The record’s slower songs are also broadly good. “Slow Motion” is quite literally pitched in slow motion but its earthy, languid vibes are quite soothing. “Only You’re the One” is exceedingly dramatic and comes on very strong. It all seems greatly exaggerated but it is of that sentimental calibre that tends to resonate with a wide audience. “Aftermath” is probably the best track on here. It is just as morose as everything else but leads with a piano and has a kind of breathy, eased energy. It has a momentous swell and works as much as it needs to, though there’s probably not enough truth or sincerity to make it really affecting.
Almería isn’t exactly essential listening but as an exercise in foolproof, generic appeal it works well. It’ll certainly appeal to a wide audience, and particularly those who prefer their music kept wholesome and thoughtful. It may be disappointing for some listeners to unearth the dearth of bluster or pace at the album’s core but it is harmless, gentle, and easy listening.
Review written by Grace Duffy