Picture this – an emotional, stressed-out sixth former, sat on her bed with cookie crumbs and cake wrappers everywhere, screaming at her History coursework because she needs to find another 1,000 words about the Victorian prison system from somewhere. University isn’t going to happen at this rate, the diet is out the window, and life just sucks. So, what can make this better? Oh, of course, the calming, beautiful tones of those pretty Irish lads – Kodaline. In A Perfect World set them up as a creditable band. With their signature “wooooahs”, catchy hooks, and classic anthem, All I Want, Kodaline did smashingly well. And whatever they did next was going to be closely watched. So does Coming Up For Air soar or sink? It’s a tricky one to judge.
I was really excited about this album release, purely because I wanted to see how Kodaline would do things differently. Would they keep to their roots, or would success make them go more mainstream and generic, swallowed by what the music industry deems to be popular? Similar bands, like The Script, have done the latter, and I was hoping that Kodaline wouldn’t follow in their footsteps. Luckily, first track, Honest, shows that traditional Kodaline are here to stay. Clearly the main vocal point of the album, Honest resembles the previous All I Want, with the signature emotive vibe. The light tone carries beautiful lyrics that listeners can relate to and belt out accordingly. Unclear takes things a wee bit further, offering a powerhouse feel – the band seem to have acquired a taste for choirs, it seems. I’m not sure that they would’ve got away with that one on their debut, but hey, the chorus adds weight – ideal for those requiring musical therapy. And as all things come in threes, Autopilot, a personal favourite, provides a steady beat with a deep message - and of course, the howling “Oooohs” we know and love. Though while we may love them, there is only so much one can take…
As I was listening, one annoying issue became apparent. Okay, so there are dramatic fade ins and outs between each track, vocals vary with attempts at soprano-ish notes, and elements of each song are very nice. But that’s it, only elements. Kodaline have the potential to create something really interesting. For example, Lost experiments with electronics to produce an intriguing echo-y effect - but overall, it’s all a little samey. And trust me, it pains me to say it. The One seems to try and act like an anthem similar to Honest, but really, it’s a bit soppy. I mean, being young Irish men with floppy hair - it’s somewhat expected. Coming Alive does essentially the same job, although it did make me smile. It’s all fluffy bunnies and rainbows, or detrimental heartbreak. And as we all know from listening to our friends moaning about this sort of thing, there’s only so much you can listen to before you want to scream “Get over it!”.
But hold up – not all hope is lost! As I began to get a little bit bored (by track four, a little worry was growing in my mind), Human Again was a complete change from what I knew of Kodaline. The vocals are deep, growly, with loud guitars and a hook that you have to mildly head-bang to. It’s also damn sexy. Plus Lost does have a slight Muse-y aura to it, showing the band to be more versatile than initially thought, and a tad unpredictable. And every lass likes unpredictability. A strong point for Kodaline. A big green tick next to their name.
Alas, the album lulls after this point. There are more attempts at those high notes that I’m not quite sure of. Moving On is a pretty song; the simplicity of the track and the harmonies make it stand out from the use of choirs. And the acoustic version of Honest is also lovely, changing the song’s mood from passive aggressive to sensitive, and giving the lyrics a different dynamic. But admittedly, I had pressed ‘skip’ quite a few times by this point. It’s hard, I assure you: I wanted to like it and keep listening. But like your Grandma going on about a story that you know will have no punchline, I switched off after a while. Too whiney, and all of it blended together. A delightful sound, but not distinct.
So, did Coming Up For Air leave me breathless? In short, nope. I love Kodaline, but it was a wee bit repetitive, and my attention span is about as long as a tea spoon. I need something to grab my attention and make it stay, but Kodaline had a loose grip. Yet there were some really pleasing moments on the album – I can happily sit and listen to Honest and address past-lovers. And at parts, I must admit I was impressed, which is hard for me to do. But ultimately, the album is pretty safe – these pretty boys need to take more risks in order to stay at the front of the race.