Sullivan & Gold are Adam Montgomery and Ben Robinson, a duo hailing from Derry. ‘For Foes’ is their first album on the Small Town America label and it has a fairly ambitious mission statement. The album deals with one single character as he reflects back on his life. As is often the case with this type of concept album however, the story running through it can get lost fairly easily. What is more important is the content of the individual songs on the album and, fortunately, there are some excellent tunes here.
The band’s sound isn’t easily categorised, but it could be described as a mixture of folk and indie-rock and brings to mind bands like Bombay Bicycle Club and Local Natives. The Villagers’ ‘Awayland’, released earlier this year, is a definite touchstone as well. This album has a similarly adventurous approach to production, adding instrumental flourishes to songs that sound like they were written on an acoustic guitar. The lads are not just riding in the slipstream of more successful bands though; there is enough personality here to mark them out as unique.
Opening track Lonely is a slow-burning ballad that brings to mind something by Snow Patrol, although that connection may have as much to do with their accents as the actual music. It is a good introduction to the band anyway and highlights their strengths, which are generally their harmonised vocals and excellent sense of melody. That melodic strength comes to the fore even more on the follower Changing, which builds slowly to an uplifting crescendo by the end.
A lot of these tracks do tend to build in a similar way, which means they might require a few listens to sink in. The acoustic numbers tend to hit a lot quicker though. People Talk in particular has a great chorus where the two vocals mingle together beautifully and Don’t Stand In Line is another excellent one. The latter song shows the influence of a lot of 70s folk singers. Something about the way the vocals are phrased brings to mind the likes of Neil Young or Joni Mitchell. The lyrics on the album are generally quite good as well. It can be difficult to figure out exactly what they’re trying to convey sometimes but there are plenty of memorable lines throughout.
While these acoustic numbers show off the pair’s songwriting skills, the other tracks highlight the excellent production on the album, which was handled in collaboration with Conor Mason of Little Bear. There are little touches throughout which prevent songs from stalling on the same theme. The glitchy drums towards the end of Run Faster, for example, mirror the title of the song and pick up the pace for the final dash. The songs generally revolve around piano and guitar but the other instruments are placed well throughout are there occasional orchestral touches with strings appearing here and there.
The album doesn’t exactly barrel along at a furious pace but it is fairly concise and ends after 33 minutes. Only Please Repeat, an acapella interlude, seems a bit superfluous, the rest of the tracks are fairly solid. There are parts here that aren’t overly exciting but the good strongly outweighs the bad and overall it is quite an impressive effort from the Derry lads.