Silhouettes – Aquilo (2017)

Aquilo are a musical duo consisting of Ben Fletcher and Tom Higham from Lancashire in England.

I first became aware of Aquilo a couple of years ago with their tracks “Put Me Down” and “Calling Me” with the former making my Top 10 Songs of 2015.

The style of music is very soft and ambient with the harmonies of both singers allowing their music to become very atmospheric. There is a calmness to these set of songs which are allowed to breath in this expansive sound that the duo have created.

At times there is perhaps a forced angst in their lyrics and vocal arrangements but for the most part there is a genuine emotive yet fragile feeling to each songs structure and composition.

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The opening track is “Sihouette” sets the tone for the entire album and lyrically gives us a sense of the journey that both would go on during their time thus far as Aquilo.

This song talks about the people they have met and relationships they have formed which have fallen at the wayside due to their progression in the musical world and the lack of foundations they have been able to set for themselves with all the work and travelling that has been required.

The instrumentation is structured in that epic way to give the lyrics a further boost. It’s an introduction to the group and a strong opener to the album.

“Blindside” is a song about the break up of a relationship. There are some similarities to the vocal style of James Morrison and even some melodic similarities in the chorus but it is this chorus that makes the song and will remain with you after the song has finished.

If you think that the opening two tracks were moody and atmospheric then it is the third track “Human” which trumps both of them in what I consider one of the best songs on the album. Perhaps it was when I was first listened to the song that helped me enjoy it more because there is something about being alone in the car driving at night that made this song a perfect reflective moment.

Lyrically the song is actually quite positive because it is about getting through a moment of difficulty and dusting yourself off. The slick production is not complicated but the break at 02.40 is that ethereal moment that Aquilo seem to be reaching for constantly.

A change in tone was required at this point and it is delivered with “Never Hurt Again” which is one of the few upbeat songs on this debut album. This is proof that they don’t just write sad songs and they do this track really well. There isn’t much to it but again Aquilo show a penchant for writing catchy hooks. Despite this type of ‘dream pop’ they seem to be about there is straight up pop writing within their lyrics. A really enjoyable track and it is nice to pop your head up above the fog they have created (very much like what you see on the front cover of the album).

“Almost Over” is a track that to me should be faster. The elements of the verses indicate to me that this song could well have been a more dancier track. The lyrics to me seem too slow and whilst what I am advocating is actually a complete change of the track in it’s music the reason I do so is that it is one of those songs that sounds like it is a stripped down version of something a lot bigger.

This is one of those songs that sounds as though it is building to something different but just bobs along without taking the turn that it would need to make it something special.

But the special track is up next with “You Won’t Know Where You Stand”. It is almost as if the stars had aligned to show everything that is good about Aquilo. Melodcially it is compelling, its catchy, its sweet (maybe too much so but we will overlook that), with the vocal performance being quite stunning.

Similar to the opening track “Silhouette” the song is touching on the journey that both are on with their musical careers and that they will be leaving people behind

I’m a selfish man in a selfish world
There’s a world we choose and a friend we lose
It looks like I’m changing

There are some pretty songs on this set but this is by far the best song.

The 7th track “I Gave It All” goes back to the simple piano ballad as we look to expose the soft and breezy vocals that it is difficult to deny are very impressive. This song seems very personal and the way the lyrics are sung in the chorus come across very heartfelt and genuine. A very pretty song.

“All I Ever Wanted” feels like a bit of an interlude but the length of the track (02.30) tells us that this probably isn’t the case. Nevertheless it acts a type of break with the choir like harmonies continuing that sleepy type of ambiance that the duo seem comfortable creating.

“Sorry” is again a pretty song but if I have to be critical I just believe this is a bit too “Try hard”. There are a few reasons I believe this such as the way the vocal from Tom is delivered which is just a bit too disconnected from the lyrics as I believe he is searching to push the emotion when he is apologizing rather than being sincere. It is almost as if his wail of “I’m sorry” is redundant and if you remove that he is simply listing things that went wrong with the relationship.

Lyrically the song is just a bit contrived to my liking:

I’m sorry that I let you go, I’m sorry that I cared
I’m sorry that the feeling shows and I just wasn’t there
I’m reminded of the fool I was
I cut you off and fucked it up again
I’m sorry that I let you go, I’m sorry that I cared

The 10th track “Complication” wakes us up from the slumber of retrospectives we have fallen into.

I like the instrumentation on this. The programmed drums and simple synth works well. I would love to hear this song as just an instrumental as it is one of the highlights of this project.

“Never Seen You Get So Low” is a very Aqulio title for a song but it really is great track.

There is a real simplistic structure to this song but with a more R&B flavour to the melody and some lyrics that home in on someones self destruction makes the song compelling and one of my favourites on here.

“Low Light” perhaps gets a bit lost on the album because of there being other songs with a similar vibe and similar lyrically themes which we see them talk about about what they have been through to get to this point. Certainly one of the more forgettable tracks.

The penultimate track is “Always Done What You Say” which is full of R&B/Soul flavour which is where my musical leanings tend to be towards. The vocals on here are probably the best of all the tracks as there are different elements to the way the song is sung which display all the qualities of Ben Fletcher’s range.

The final track on “Silhouettes” is “Waiting”. This sees Aqulio go back to what they seem most at home with which is a piano lead stripped down ballad which builds up. This is the formula the due use often.

Vocally this song is stunning. It is a great display of these fragile young voices that are trying to make sense of the experiences they have had in their lives so far.

Aquilo are like the geeky sweet kid in a movie where the girl only seems interested in the bad boy but continues to stay true to themselves and lives in hope that they will choose them to be with. This track en-captures that feeling perfectly in a track which offers nothing we haven’t heard from them already but furthers the graceful and delicate style that is difficult to dislike.

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For those following Aqulio for a long time this album will be everything they have wanted because it stays true to their style and never reaches outside their comfort zone which can be frustrating for a listener not familiar with the duo but at the same time on a debut album you want to perfect the craft that has got you to this point and Aqulio certainly do that.

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