Scottish band Sons And Daughters burst onto the indie music scene back in 2005 with the vehement, visceral, and critically-lauded debut The Repulsion Box. Raw emotions ran riot as Adele Bethel and Scott Paterson dueled and harmonized to electric effect. Subsequent album This Gift, with Bernard Butler at the helm, saw the band refine and gild its sound to the point of being too ornate in song structure and too reliant on Adele as the primary singer. The integral interplay between Adele’s brash, tart vocals and Scott’s counterbalancing deeper, smoother croon was lost on that album.
The band’s latest release is a substantial departure from previous efforts, employing a strong post-punk vibe to its production, with repetitive, pronounced bass line and drum rhythms (courtesy of Ailidh Lennon and David Gow, respectively), wiry guitar agitation, and the feel of being recorded in an empty room. On most songs, emphasis is placed on Adele’s vocals as she moves from powerful and emotive tones to a newfound subtle, airy register. Scott backs up Adele closely on certain verses and choruses and even takes center stage on a couple of tracks.
The aurally striking opener “Silver Spell” takes a page from Portishead’s Third by stripping down the Sons And Daughters sound to its essence, purging the extraneous and focusing on the song’s skeletal structure. Minimal instrumentation and stark vocals from Adele and Scott create a dark, ominous atmosphere.
“Ink Free” falls in line with that first song, while adding to its spare core. A continually simmering buzz, lightly thumping beat, and fingered bass line form a platform for Adele’s hushed and whispery vocals on the verses as she sing-talks “You’ve got your problems with the modern world…” The clack of typewriter keys punctuates Adele and Scott’s mirroring vocals. The song takes an abrupt turn near its end with a harshly spraying emission alternating with Adele and Scott’s exclaimed, repetitive refrain of “Ink… Free…”
The band moves closer to its original sound on the winning, up-tempo “Rose Red”, mixing in a running bass line, brisk beat, and occasional wiry guitar frisson. Adele sounds defiant as she sing-talks sharply and clearly that “No one’s around / You’re not a face to remember.” Adele quick-hits some insouciant Siouxsie Sioux-like yelps amid reverberating, angular guitar lines and cymbal crash.
Rhythm is of the utmost importance on “Don’t Look Now”, which runs on drums, cymbals, and bass as Adele sings emphatically, with Scott shadowing her, about “The power of the mind…” For a spell the song sacrifices melody for the sake of noise as all sorts of clanging, echoed mechanical sonics take over. Speaking of taking over, Scott is at the forefront on album-ender “The Beach”, buoyed by airy sighs from Adele. The steady patter of rain and a crack of thunder book-end the number, and in between two hard-chiming guitars form a placid pattern amid a thumping beat and bass line. Scott’s exclaimed vocals are touched with echo as he reveals “We’re living in a fantasy.”