Project Blackbird is a musical collective featuring Jon Read (former trumpet player with The Specials who has also toured with The Dandy Warhols) alongside a plethora of equally immensely talented musicians.
If you think mention of The Specials and The Dandy Warhols above gives you a sense of what to expect from Project Blackbird, think again, because Endurance is a very different album.
It is in my nature as a reviewer to try and avoid 'sounds like' comments wherever possible, which is lucky here, because it’s nigh on impossible to draw a straight comparison between this album and anything else, not that I don’t have pages of notes showing my failed attempts to do just that (“a bit like Enigma, but not sh*t, and fronted by Sade” is a personal favourite).
After hearing the first track on this album, Aurora Borealis, a moody creation, full of soul, that shifts direction multiple times before floating seamlessly into a spoken word section towards its end, I thought I knew what to expect from the rest of the album.
My first note was “if you’re looking for singalong pop tracks, look elsewhere” and then I heard the second track, Same Heart (the video to which can be found here) and had to change that immediately, because the delightfully haunting vocal here is joined by a more upbeat musical feel that comes pretty close to fitting that description.
I am a fan of spoken word, but am always cautious of albums using it too much, bbut Project Blackbird artfully sidestep such traps, as the variety of musical tools used throughout Endurance are balanced to perfection.
At times, the album is unapologetic in its focus on the purists, those who like to lie in the dark and put full focus into listening to an album (that isn’t an insult, I am totally capable of being one of those people myself) but the hobbyist isn’t left out here either.
The above mentioned Same Heart, along with Elevation, are excellent examples of radio friendly tracks that would be as suitable a soundtrack to a long drive, as they would be for background music at a dinner party.
However, relegating this album to backing music for any reason would be to do a hearty disservice to the precision with which every moment of every track is put together.
Whether it’s the groovy basslines of Sunflower, the silky guitar and brass sections of Selde and Endurance, or the poignantly written, and sublimely performed vocal sections present throughout the album, everything is worthy of your undivided attention, and even if you’re concentrating fully, there’ll be something new to discover every time you listen.
One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to the modern, streaming focused way of listening to music, is that due to the playlist culture (which I am, in many ways, a fan of) the art of putting a tracklist together for an album feels lost sometimes, or at least less important than it once was.
But every now and again, you find something that makes you realise the craft is not dead, and Endurance is undoubtedly one of those. Every track glides so seamlessly into the next that it’s more than possible to think you’re still listening to the same track, when in fact three or four have past.
That is not to say that this album is repetitive, or the tracks are too similar, because that could not be further from the truth.
Endurance soars through an array of genres, or perhaps a better term would be moods, because that’s what this album really brings forward.
An emotional rollercoaster of the smoothest kind, Endurance is a kaleidoscope of feeling, bringing you up, down, and back up again so elegantly that you may find yourself so lost in the music, that you have no choice but to immediately start the album again when it finishes, and you’ll be delighted to do so.