It is fair to say that The Bronze Medal are relatively unknown when it comes to British bands. However, their music deserves high praise and can compete with some of the best albums I’ve heard so far this year - before there is any assumption that I either have: a) a rather poor music taste and therefore possess an irrelevant opinion, or b) that the only album I’ve listened to this year is Meet The Vamps, I’d like to clarify that Darlings rivals both George Ezra and The War On Drugs.
This Bristol-based band have only been on the music scene since 2009, after they formed following a six-week busking-funded backpacking trip, which aptly portrays their rustic and raw music. Since then, the band have been touring small music venues throughout the UK, including Thekla, 2000 Trees, and the BBC Introducing stage at Reading Festival. Despite significant tour dates, the band have only released one EP prior to Darlings. In 2012, self-titled The Bronze Medal was released; containing four exceptional tracks, the record left many fans longing for an album. Finally, they have delivered.
The first track on the album is Tunnel. Beginning with a layer of sombre organ, the track is guided by a steady pace. The backing is then joined with the cutting, yet boyish vocal of lead singer, Chris Hillier: “Take me inside, my head is spinning”. The song continues to slowly build with incredibly effective drumming and meets the perfect balance of a full, melodic sound whilst also avoiding a stagnant song. The track meets the incredibly high standards that Furrows and Milk had created in the band’s earlier work.
Throughout this album, the band continue to display the careful and powerful lyrics that have gone into their work. Maybe waiting two years for a record isn’t much to complain about when the standard is so high. Another favourite of mine is Thought We Had It Good; the song begins with the delicate voice of Hillier over a sustained guitar riff, which is later joined by a tambourine. The backing vocals then provide beautiful, ear-gasmic harmonies. As a band, The Bronze Medal have an amazing sense of less is more and are always able to keep the listener engaged. This excellent dynamic combines with lyrics that cut through the complex blend of bass-y folk with a “You’ve been making life plans and I don’t figure in them”. The Times describe The Bronze Medal as “masters of indie slow-build”; whilst this is true, I feel it should be amended to the “masters of indie slow-build, interwoven with colourful, raw harmonies”.
If this review is still leaving you indecisive of whether you should give The Bronze Medal a listen, it may be useful for some band comparisons. In terms of band dynamics, harmonies, and sound, they are quite like Fleet Foxes, Admiral Fallow, and Ben Howard (though slightly heavier in terms of electric guitar). More mainstream comparisons are hard to make, as there is little room in the charts for such a melancholic and reflective album - the best song comparison I could make would be George Ezra’s Leaving It Up To You.
All in all, The Bronze Medal’s Darlings is a must-have in any album collection this year. It provides perfect reflective music, which also punches enough to provide an eagerness to have the album on shuffle after its initial download.