The Little Unsaid is the work of John Elliott, who started recording in his bedroom and originally played all the instruments himself. This, as the name suggests, is an introduction to the band’s work.
It’s intense stuff, mainly because of Elliott’s struggles with mental health (“The Little Unsaid chart(s) my journey from small, bewildered boy to the small, bewildered man that stands before you today,” he wrote on his blog). The music can be complex — Alive As is meaty as you could want — but on the whole is delicate and nuanced, a vehicle for the lyrics. We guess it’s the emotional honesty of the lyrics that fans like; Elliott writes about mental illness as someone who has lived through it.
Opener Day Is Golden is one of the standouts, a slow tune beginning with just piano, but the lyrics hit you between the eyes. The opening line, “I have no home / But the day is golden”, leads to “I once cried all day cos I used the wrong toothbrush / That was last week” and “Don’t you dare be ashamed / All the courage in the world is what it takes / To turn to a human being and say / ‘I’m hanging by a thread.”
The percussion-led and more experimental Why I Came Here is apparently inspired by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s Threnody To The Victims Of Hiroshima and wonders whether heaven exists “for people like us”. Midway through, the tribal beat pauses to let a mournful string sound roll in. Symptomatic opens with a heartbeat pulse and delicate strings and could be a pop tune but again is about mental health issues, talking about opening up old wounds and it not being easy to be yourself.
Don’t be deterred by the lyrics: the overall tone is one of hope. The music is folk-ish but has enough experimentation and nuance to appeal to fans of Radiohead, with songs such as Alive As and the excellent Docklands.
Imagined Hymn mixes acoustic guitar and ethereal vocals to great effect, while Can We Hear It? opens with a taped and looped children’s choir before an off-kilter beat and slow vocals come in.
Not an album to play in the car; more one for reflective moments and to listen to late at night. Fans of the likes of Radiohead or even Justin Currie will like the music; anyone who’s ever battled mental health will appreciate the lyrics.