It’s not always the case that the best music is music made with genuine enjoyment at its core, but that seems to be something that Belfast quartet And So I Watch You From Afar have made their trademark. Their 2009 self-titled debut came rumbling forth with post-rock as its cornerstone but added their joyful, hugely melodic flourish that established them as a rather singular entity. “Heirs,” their fourth LP, sees them continue with that vision in mind, expressing an often epic and sometimes diverse abandon along the way.
Whether they’re attempting heavy, sucker-punching power or a sugary catchiness, “Heirs” is always crisply produced and cleanly cut. Spurred on by its own sense of bravado, the best moments here have a sense of emotional depth. Opener ‘Run Home’ sets the tone without pulling any punches, all fizzing ascending arpeggios, harmonised gang vocals, swift dalliances into Mogwai-esque atmospherics and a tremolo-picking led ending.
‘Wasps’ hints at stadium-sized grandiosity and actually pulls it off without ever sounding like either Five Finger Death Punch or U2. The off-kilter bounce of ‘Re-Designed A Million Times’ is the sort of track that will force a shit-eating grin across the face of the listener, and the 6 minutes of ‘A Beacon, A Compass, An Anchor’ is awash with the kind of youthful excitement and atmosphere surrounding an epic voyage out to sea with an uncertain future ahead of them but a sense of confidence that ignores any possible failures.
The most hard-hitting moments here are occasionally pilfered out by tracks that pack less of a punch, though. ‘These Secret Kings I Know’ sounds a bit like NME-adorning indie troupe Los Campesinos! Trying to go heavy. Both ‘People Not Sleeping’ and ‘Fucking Lifer’ feel slightly non-descript in comparison to the really powerful moments here, despite the former’s relative experimentation. Despite being the longest track on the album, it’s not until the final 2 minutes of the title track that a sense of palpable emotion is realised.
Stylistically, “Heirs” is pretty much business as usual for the group. Individualistic, supremely played and staunchly melodic, the overwhelming sense one will have coming away from it is a reflection of the sheer joy that clearly went into making it. So though the most upbeat music isn’t always the most artistically commendable, in the case of And So I Watch You From Afar it’s a calling card that they have made their own, and sometimes achieve real commanding presence with.