Article by KevW
You be forgiven for thinking we'd heard the last from Oxford's Family Machine. It's been over seven years since their debut album, and 2012 singles 'Quiet As A Mouse' and 'Skeletons & That' appeared to be stand-alone tracks. Besides releasing a full second album, the other surprise is that the tender, folky direction that those two songs (both of which are included here) suggested isn't the full story of 'Houses That You Lived In', and this is also a much more ornate record than their debut.
'Friends With The Wolves' opens the record, and is thoughtful, intricate and considered alt-folk with a wintry feel, some neat harmonies and a little of the yearning sadness we've come to expect, but it does feel a bit more pumped up than some past tracks, upping the tempo and skipping towards the ending with a spring in its step. This means it serves as a great introduction to the ornate and brassy indiepop of 'Long Way From Home'. Verging on choral in its delivery, this sees Family Machine at their most accessible and most fun, but without sacrificing any of their attention to detail or beautifully woven textures and emotions. It's a great entry point for those new to the band, although the bulk of album ploughs a familiar, yet still quite delightful, furrow.
Perhaps the more delicate 'Morning Song' is more in the vein of what we were expecting, rich with west-coast harmonies and gentle orchestration which really hit the mark, or 'Sleep' which recalls the excellent Theatre Royal. The playful, acoustic 'We Ain't Going Home' almost feels like an interlude, but it's still pieced together carefully so that it twinkles. The title-track strips back the layers so that the lead vocal is isolated for the most part, something which gives a more personal touch. 'The Less You Know' also feels a touch more intimate and reflective and is the most outright folk-influenced song on the album. 'Houses That You Lived In' shows Family Machine largely sticking to what they do best but occasionally exploring new avenues, and its all done with an impeccable ear for detail.
Family Machine's website
Buy: 'Houses That You Lived In'
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