Some things just have to be said straight out, without preamble. Fairytales from the Island is a stunning album.
This is progressive music of the highest order. Delicate vocal harmonies soar over instrumentation that is inventive, clever and rewarding, but never overbearing. Moving through Beatles-esq songcraft, rousing instrumental swells, powerful drum led progressions, thunderous guitar sequences, folk harmonies and a brief brass vignette; there are a myriad of styles on show, but they never feel episodic and separate, instead being tied together by an overarching personality that runs right through the album.
Where much modern music can feel jaded and world weary (often deliberately and with good reason), Fairytales from the Island retains a sense of innocence. There is a sense of wonder and discovery about it, one untainted by irritating lyrical naivety or overbearing affectation. Notes and sequences are treated with a deft sensitivity; individual parts are clear, yet fall effortlessly into place in the musical whole.
"Le Magicien" is a perfect slice of off-kilter storytelling, "Treasure Hunt" masterfully builds from a lingering sense of melancholy into a grandiose elegiac crescendo. "Tales From Sarah Jane – The Golden Horse" could be described as like Fleet Foxes crossed with King Crimson, were it not a reductive description that ignores Intensive Care's exceptional and distinctively individual tone. In fact, stop reading this nonsense and try to find yourself a copy.
Call it prog-pop, call it symphonic rock, call it banana-coated-ostrich-steak for all I care, I just call it wonderful.
1. Tales of Sarah Jane, the Golden Horse
3. Le Magicien
7. Another You
8. Wandering Men
10. Treasure Hunt
11. Magician (out)