Album Review: Stealing Sheep – Not Real

By on Thursday, 30th April 2015 at 1:00 pm

Stealing Sheep Not Real coverJust ahead of the upcoming festival season, Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep have released their second studio album ‘Not Real’, which comprises a shimmering set of hazy dream-pop tracks perfect for easing into the bright sunshine of summer. Noticeably more streamlined than their 2012 debut LP ‘Into the Diamond Sun’, the new album sets the band’s ethereal three-part vocal harmonies over austere tribal-sounding percussion rhythms and glistening synth and guitar arrangements to create an overall sound that is both bright and breezily cool.

‘Not Real’ is a quick listen overall, without any rough edges or extraneous material to interrupt the concise impact of the individual songs. Opening track ‘Sequence’ starts with sparkling electro-synth keyboards over an immediately catchy bass groove and a lively melody decorated by the trio’s signature vocal harmonies. ‘Apparition’ takes a slightly heavier tone, the harmonies becoming more darkly haunting over its ominous bass line.


The album’s current single ‘Not Real’ has been featured in two previous TGTF Video of the Moment pieces, one for the song’s official video and one for a live performance at Liverpool’s Vessel studio. Aside from being the title track, ‘Not Real’ clearly wasn’t chosen by accident as the first release from the album. It catches attention instantly with the dramatic simplicity of its opening vocal line, “Don’t let the daytime fool you that you’re not real”. The stridently singsong quality of that lyric combines with a stark dance beat and bending guitar lines that are glossed over by the angular synth melodies and soft backing vocals.

Heavily beat-driven tracks ‘This Time’ and ‘Greed’ both feature visceral percussion rhythms and deep bass riffs under hazy, psychedelic vocal effects. ‘Greed’ in particular has a more muscular sound, realized in its initial lyric “The sun is tough / the ground is dry / your blood is thick / your skin is worn’. The brief but effective instrumental section at the end of the song stands out in contrast to the more straightforward arrangements of the other tracks on the album.

The most austere track on the album, ‘Evolve & Expand’, is a slow, stark acoustic ballad whose haunting harmony and angular guitar line somehow feel very much in place with the rest of the songs, despite the dramatically stripped-back instrumentation. It creates an interesting contrast, but one that perhaps could have been evolved and expanded upon a bit more.

The pace of the album slows a bit toward the end, with the simple, repeated lyrics and the singsong quality of the vocal delivery, particularly in the trite chorus of the rather unimaginatively titled track ‘Love’: “L-O-V-E / spell it out so I can see your love”. However, final track ‘She’ closes the record on a stronger note, with a slow burning introduction that gracefully evolves into a sensual rhythm and a gradually layered instrumental texture. The hazy three-part vocals lend themselves remarkably well to the allusion to the feminine mystique in the lyrics “she has gone, I feel it in the air”.

While the simplicity of the lyrics on ‘Not Real’ might at first seem to be a detriment, the vocal lines make perfect sense as part of the overarching instrumental texture, especially with the trio’s effective blend of lightly layered vocal harmonies. Focusing on their delicately psychedelic instrumentation, Stealing Sheep have created here not a sharply-defined sound, but more of a surreal, otherworldly aura.


Stealing Sheep’s sophomore album ‘Not Real’ is out now on Heavenly Recordings. The trio are currently touring in the UK and will appear at Liverpool Sound City 2015 at the end of May. They have also announced a September/October UK tour. Previous TGTF coverage of Stealing Sheep can be found here.

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