In an ideal world, the title of a record would tell you everything you need to know. Maybe not in the literal sense, as you’d wonder how many copies of Nickelback’s latest LP, 12 Generic Cobain Aping Songs, would sell. Everything I Lost, the debut album from Dublin folk group The Annulments is a great example of a name perfectly fitting an album. In three simple words, the phrase is able to evoke this incredibly personal sense of longing, sadness and pathos, yet is vague enough to apply in any context: loss of love, financial security or even a sense of self. The melancholy, which is so deeply ingrained in that phrase, perfectly reflects the mood of the record. While the record may ebb and flow at points, when it works, it has a frankly bewitching charm to it that makes it very difficult not to love.
The whole thing kicks off very well with its opener. ‘All The Stars’ gently floats around a simple looping melody that recalls ‘Perpetuum Mobile’ and very comfortably sets up the listener for what is to come. From here the record delivers a rather consistent bunch of songs that all seem to slide effortlessly through an overabundance of different country and folk variants. ‘Letter’ has the feeling of belonging to a lost Richard Thompson record, ‘The Second Estate’ could belong to Katzenjammer and ‘Cuckoo’ is dripping with smoky, sultry Dusty Springfield vibes. But where the record is at its absolute strongest is when it strips itself back, as on the wonderful ‘We’ll Never Do That Again’, or when it goes for a haunting sound as is the case with the album’s highlight ‘Come Down From Your Mountain’, which massively benefits from the affecting dual vocals of Aoife Ruth and Claire Fitzgerald who chill the bones here. The only points where the album struggles to hold its head above water is ‘Whose High Horse’, which doesn’t really click. Additionally, they don’t fully recognise exactly how powerful of a presence Ruth and Fitzgerald are and allows them stay in background a little too much.
Despite never really achieving much in the way of clarity or hope over 11 tracks, for the most part, Everything I Lost is a cold and defeated experience akin to gazing out on a broken winter’s day from a frosty room as the once-roaring fire turns to embers and ice begins to creep in. Yet the album is imbued with such heart and feeling that it’s hard to believe that the world is a cold dead place just yet. There are slivers of light that seep through some of the cracks in the form of these lilting melodies that almost seem to float above everything. They hover and remain and they remind you that while things are tough and miserable, the desolation hasn’t fully set in and that some sweeter horizon might still be possible. Will Murphy