The Place We Ran From
Mom & Pop Records
By Scott Roberts
Despite the beleaguered quality of the name of this super-group of sorts, Tired Pony, led by Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and featuring the notable talents of R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Belle and Sebastian’s Richard Colburn amongst others, has put together a quietly energetic and emotionally evocative set of songs on their debut CD The Place We Ran From. It would seem the band’s rather lofty goal here was to illuminate the beauty of simplicity, as well as the vastness of the human spirit, and have done so quite admirably.
The unhurried pace of the songs is established from the opening cut, the lovely “Northwestern Skies,” and continues throughout most of the CD’s 10 tunes, the exception being the jaunty, Irish-influenced “Point Me At Lost Islands” (complete with fiddle solo). Each song is allowed to breathe and slowly build with various instruments magically appearing in the mix then unceremoniously disappearing into the ether. The credit for this subtly epic sound belongs more to producer Jacknife Lee (U2, Bloc Party) than the well-known players on the CD. In fact, if one criticism can be levied against The Place We Ran From (aside from the questionable grammatical correctness of the title), it’s that the playing itself is fairly indistinct, especially from Buck who never puts his legendary jangly stamp on any of the songs; his contribution may be more in his overall presence and gravitas. Producer Lee, though, more than makes up for this lack of distinctive musicianship by providing an aural tableau from which the players can interact with each other and contribute where necessary.
The slightly propulsive “Dead American Writers” is the first single from the CD, but the album’s shining moment is the hypnotic waltz “Held In The Arms Of Your Words.” Its floaty feeling and poetic lyrics (“You’re effortless, you know you are/And all I want to do/Is let you lead me off into the dusk”) capture the full potential of Tired Pony’s stark yet rich sound while showcasing the most romantic aspects of leader Gary Lightbody’s words, as well as the inviting warmth of his singing. The Place We Ran From never comes off as a side project and should rightfully end up on the inevitable “Best Albums of 2010” lists in the coming months.