A Closer Look: “Scrapbook”

Madness and the Film
Photo by Kristin Hoebermann

Growing up in a pre-Internet world, I was fortunate enough to have a musical experience that has largely been lost to today’s world. Playing the radio while studying, most of the songs would be simply background music to keep me awake and engaged. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, a song would be played that would make me stop everything I was doing. From the first note it would grab me. Enthralled, I’d listen to this new song unfold for the very first time. It would fade away into the next track queued by the radio station, and I’d be left with both euphoria and disappointment. Euphoria at having just experienced the song, and disappointment that it was over. I was at the mercy of the radio station. I’d hear it again when they wanted me to. In the days to follow I’d have the radio on at all times, just waiting for that five minute slot when this new track would be exposed again.

Much has changed in the musical world since. But, I recently had an experience that brought back all those memories of anticipation. Late one night I received a tweet asking that I check out a new band that had just released their first single. I get this often, and always take the time to listen. Clicking play, I instantly stopped everything I was doing. Note-by-note the song unravelled for me. My excitement at what I was listening to climbed. It was exactly the feeling I’d had when listening to that rare gem on the radio half my life ago.

The song was London Town, the band, Madness and the Film. I listened to what can only be described as the highest of quality vocal work unfold, set to melodious instrumentals with subtle complexities expertly executed. The song was a journey. In my head, it conjured the imagery of a leaf floating on the autumn breeze. The natural vocal talent and highly lyrical content of the song pushed it further on the journey with each word. It ended with me feeling that same euphoria I’d known long ago.

I immediately needed to know more. I immediately needed to hear more. But staring at me from my computer screen was this single track. Searches of the band’s name provided little more information. Out of nowhere this supreme accomplishment that was London Town, then nothing. Now came the feeling of disappointment. In the age where all music is so accessible, I’ve grown accustomed to immediate gratification in all my listening needs. A band will make publicly available demo tracks for future studio efforts long before an EP is released. But Madness and the Film took a classic approach. Just the one track. The anticipation of more filled me with excitement and agony.

I soon learned that a four track EP, Scrapbook, was forthcoming. No set release date. It brought back the same feeling I’d have after hearing one of those stand-out tracks on the radio. At the first opportunity, I’d find my way to the record store. Being in a rural area of Canada, the albums I’d listen to would always require me to place a special order. Sometimes they would arrive in days, sometimes in weeks. Each day I’d return to the store to see if my order was in. Now, I found myself returning to the usual social networking resources to find out if the Madness and the Film EP was released. Each day brought disappointment and but hope that the next day would be the day.

That day came on May 25th. I received word of the release during the day time hours when I was busy with my children. I took the time to download the tracks, but I held back and did not listen. Just a few more hours of anticipation until the house was quiet. This was my ritual in days gone by when I’d finally receive that CD from the record store. I’d keep it wrapped up until I got home and had the peace and quiet to listen with my full attention.

The familiar, well known, well listened to, and well loved London Town was track number one. For as much as I wanted to jump into the new material, I thought better of it. The artists gave the ordering for a reason, and I would respect this. London Town played through. Having listened to it countless times, I marvelled at the feeling of excitement I still got with each play. The initial feeling did not wane; rather, it had grown. Mixed with the anticipation of what new gems were yet to be uncovered, I was in musical paradise.

The track faded and Moonlit Shadows began to fill the room. Quietly, slowly, the track emerged with the gentle sound of a piano. The vocals began with David Breeze unravelling a story in song. At a pace slower than London Town, but with even deeper heart and emotion, the sounds of Moonlit Shadows permeated the air. It was soothing to listen to, but at the same time the song hinted at something left unsaid. The lyrics told a story, but the pace and the underlying instrumentals painted a picture of greater depth than lyrics alone could satisfy. At the two-minute, thirty-second mark the instrumentals evolved. With slightly more rapid pace, subtly more aggressive keys and the overlay of an expertly executed guitar, the song’s feeling grows and takes shape. As the track fades, the initial feeling of loneliness transforms to one of jubilation. It is a rare and exquisite example of a song taking the listener on an emotional journey in the span of just four minutes.

From Moonlit Shadows to Persuasion. The listener is hit with an element so often left out in modern music. The opening of the song unfolds with guitar work that can only be produced by a classically trained musician. It brought me back to a time in my life when classical guitar formed the basis of my listening. So seldom does this rich, melodic, and powerful form of music makes its way into modern music. But, so appropriate is its inclusion in Persuasion. There is an upbeat, energetic feel to the track. David’s natural talent as a vocalist is further enforced as he demonstrates his mastery of this higher tempo track. The listener is taken on a wholly different musical journey than encountered in London Town or Moonlit Shadows. The song ebbs and flows with the peak, the chorus, fading naturally into more subdued, piano dominated spans. It is a singularly satisfying experience to be immersed in.

Sitting in my living room with all my attention devoted to Madness and the Film, the final track, The Motions began its run. Starting lyrically, gently, I immediately bonded with the sound. Similar to Moonlit Shadows, there was deep and underlying emotion behind the words. But then, at the one-minute, eleven-second mark the pace changes. A more traditional guitar style found in modern music is introduced, supplemented by the brilliant piano work common throughout the EP. David’s vocals change shape and the song is seamlessly transformed. My initial thought when reaching this point was that this track was the ribbon. It expertly tied together all that made the previous songs unique and exceptional. It provided closure. It provided an ending that the listener craves when moving from one song to the next. My decision to listen in the intended track ordering turned out to be a very wise one. The track (and the EP) ends with the final twenty seconds returning to the gentle sounds with which the song began. It leaves a sense of completion. It is a satisfaction rarely found in music, and only executed by the most intelligent of composers.

The entire process spanning my first listen of London Town, through to this very moment where the rich sounds of the Scrapbook EP still resound in my head, was a singularly rewarding and magnificent experience. The introduction to the early single followed by the wait for the EP brought back that lost feeling of anticipation. It is one that is slowly fading as musicians progressively roll out music, allowing the album to accumulate rather than be anticipated. Madness and the Film bring to the musical world intelligence of composition that is rarely observed to this degree. It is my opinion that the sounds fill a void that has grown in recent years. With more reliance on electronic elements in music, the Scrapbook EP takes a step back and utilises classical instrumentation. While the vocals and lyrics shine, they are not the only focus. Taking the time and the attention to listen through to the instrumentation that supports the words proves rewarding. The subtle complexities of composition emerge, giving great depth and significance to the songs. Collectively, the EP is an experience rather music to be played simply in the background. It is an accomplishment of the highest order.

The Scrapbook EP is available for purchase as a download through iTunes.

Additionally, samples of each track are available on the Madness and the Film SoundCloud page.

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Michael Dakin // @SirMop26

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