Philip Selway : Familial
Prior to Philip Selway’s Familial, only two members of Radiohead had released solo albums: Thom Yorke’s exceptional electronic-driven solo debut, The Eraser, appeased fantasies in 2006 while Jonny Greenwood unveiled his haunting film score for Bodysong in 2003.
Needless to say, comparing Selway’s acoustic solo album to the aforementioned records – created by one of this generation’s greatest songwriters and one of modern music’s great experimental virtuosos, respectively – would not only be inappropriate but pure lunacy.
Unlike The Eraser and Bodysong, the Radiohead drummer’s solo album – Familial – intentionally defies experimentation for emotive rawness and chilling simplicity. Due to its bare-boned arrangements and more straight-forward folk styling, it’s a record that would never be passed by Radiohead... and that’s exactly why Selway has released it.
While Radiohead fans have enjoyed Selway’s backing vocals during live performances, The Ties That Bind Us – initially written and performed for Neil Finn’s 7 Worlds Collide project – was his first recorded lead vocal. Selway’s vocals are of a delicate and smooth intonation – undeniably pleasant and soothing, but hardly distinctive. It does, however, become more hypnotising with each listen; there’s a stirring melancholy and eerie intonation to songs such as By Some Miracle and Beyond Reason that will bring a mischievous smile to any Radiohead devotee. There are surprising oddities lying within these pieces that reveal the gorgeous subtleties complimenting the album’s finest tracks.
That being said, the beautiful fragility and sensitivity of tracks such as All Eyes On You and Falling (which features a lovely string arrangement) are harnessed in a strikingly modest but undeniably affecting melody. While all songs (and acoustic guitar arrangements) are written and performed by Selway, he invites several musician friends to contribute additional accompaniment/harmonies, including Lisa Germano, Sebastian Steinberg, and Wilco’s Glenn Kotche, Patrick Sansone, and Jeff Tweedy.
As emphasised by the album’s brilliant cover art, Familial is thematically potent – revolving around family dynamics and the vital elements that underlie close human bonds. The Witching Hour is the perfect closer to a wistful and personal record that merely invokes Radiohead through its pensive and introspective air.
In focusing on intimacy and raw sentiment, Familial is a modest but moving composition that seeks to unravel the complexities of human connection with a sensitive and calming cadence – exposing Selway as a thoughtful songwriter, as opposed to his defining status as a master of rhythm. Familial may even find its way into Yorke’s record player, occasionally... when his kids demand a reprieve from the usual onslaught of obscure electronica/jazz/hip-hop/dubstep, that is.