(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Album Review: Aquilo – Silhouettes

By on Tuesday, 7th March 2017 at 12:00 pm

Header photo by Harvey Pearson

Aquilo Silhouettes coverWhile Aquilo are not exactly a rags-to-riches story, the Lake District from where Aquilo are from is a far cry from the big smoke in London where they find themselves now. The pair – Tom Higman and Ben Fletcher hailing from Silverdale in Lancashire – named their act after the Roman goddess of the north wind and winter. Indeed, there’s a perceptive chill in their brand of electropop, noted by the Guardian as being the better option for melancholic electronic following the xx’s about-face in ‘I See You’.

While the duo drew early comparisons to their noted influences London Grammar and James Blake, they’re set apart from them easily by music production graduate Higman’s pleasantly smoky vocals. He sounds like the boy next door, the one who listens to Sam Cooke while re-reading the volumes of William Blake on his bookshelf. In their debut album that came out in the UK in January and then America a few weeks after, this feel matches well with its primary theme of heartbreak. Judging from the temperatures I’m seeing for Austin next week (hello, full sun and 26 C+), we could do with some smooth vocals and slinky instrumentation deep in the heart of Texas. The production on ‘Silhouettes’ is second to none, as the young duo enlisted the assistance of ambient giants SOHN (also appearing at SXSW this year) and Ólafur Arnalds to further beautify their sound.

It’s a major effort to have covered all the bases on the subject of broken hearts on a debut album, and Aquilo hve achieved this. Higman’s plaintive tones on opening slow burner ‘Silhouette’ will remind you of Kodaline megahit ‘All I Want’, emoting the realisation that someone once so loved now feels like a stranger. (They’ve even got a song called ‘All I Ever Wanted’, a floaty torch song with layer upon layer of harmonies that leans less pop and more ambient.) These emotions spill over into anthemic album standout ‘Almost Over’, Higman’s laments over a breakup accompanied by suitably forlorn piano notes. The soulful ‘Sorry’, co-written by Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid, sees a desperate Higman reach for a falsetto as he bemoans letting go the love of his life. Later in the LP, the glittery yet understated instrumentation of another strong track ‘Low Light’ allows for Higman’s voice to stretch, and in a beautifully cinematic way.


‘Never Hurt Again’ picks things up with a catchy beat. Lyrically a male version of La Roux’s ‘Bulletproof’, Higman is resolute in not wanting to let the woman who hurt him back in his life. However, as you might have guessed, he’s having trouble trying to “forget his obsession” with “all these shaking hands”. He hasn’t quite shaken her off…yet. ‘You Won’t Know Where You Stand’ recalls the poppiest of moments from The Script. While both are perfectly acceptable for radio, it’s clear on ‘Silhouettes’ that Aquilo’s specialty is creating all enveloping, deeply emotional synthpop, the perfect showcase for Higman’s voice.


At 14 tracks, this is an album too long for a debut album and risks losing the attention of its listeners. While the length suggests a lack of diligence towards self-editing, for such a young act to be able to come up with this many songs of this quality bodes well for their career, and I can’t wait to see them blow up around the world.


‘Silhouettes’, London-based Aquilo’s debut album, is out now on Island Records in the UK and Harvest Records in America. The trailer for the album can be watched below. They’re featured in our roundup of London electronic acts and DJs as part of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017, available through here. While their highest profile gig in Austin for sure will be Saturday the 18th of March at 10 PM as part of the line-up of the BBC Music / Department of International Trade (formerly UK Trade and Investment) showcase to close out the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, I’m sure they’ll have other shows during the week.


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