❉ Ange Chan reviews the fourth album from the UK synthpop duo and Erasure collaborators.
For fans of the electropop scene, electronic pop songwriting and production duo Shelter need no introduction. For those as yet unacquainted with the band, Shelter are Mark R Bebb (vocals) and Rob Bradley (synths) whose back catalogue comprises three acclaimed studio albums and live document Electricity, all released by Ministry Of Pop. In addition to this, Shelter have toured Europe supporting The Human League, worked extensively with Erasure writing and producing Andy Bell’s 2014 solo album iPop, reached number 9 in the UK Pop Club charts with single With U (feat. Frankmusic) and more recently were one of the participating artists on the Andy Fletcher double album tribute 6122 – To Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode.
Now, all eyes and ears are on the synthpop duo’s fourth studio album, Is This How It Ends?, available Friday 27 January 2022 exclusively from the official Lexer Music Physical Shelter Store. Known for their trademark upbeat pop style, the band have described this latest long-player as “a postcard sent from a somewhat darker place”, using the narrative arc of a relationship from beginning to end to reflect the turbulent times of the last three years.
The album opens with the single Zero Gravity, a track that gently breaks into your consciousness with softer synths and Mark Bebb’s unmistakeable vocals. The music soon builds into a faster beat, synonymous with Shelter’s classic sound once it hits the verse and onwards into the chorus, making it an eminently danceable track.
Track two is Crystalline which speaks of a new relationship, romantically describing a love interest as “you shine like nothing I have seen before” and captures that exciting feeling of the early stages of a new love, when everything is positive, bright and shiny. Previously released as a single, it’s a very upbeat track which can’t fail but make you smile and leave you in a similarly upbeat mood.
We next move onto Some Kind of Angel which exudes definite Erasure vibes and was another single release by Shelter. I instantly liked this track and immediately replayed it on first hearing. The different vocal styles brought a lot of interest to the track (including falsetto, spoken word, and staccato delivery layered onto Mark Bebb’s vocals).
In contrast the next track Closer (another single) offers a slower, more considered approach to the song enabling you, the listener, to appreciate the lyrics and their meaning. We continue along the album’s journey with Invisible which is a melancholic track about losing someone we once loved, echoed by the lyric “are you feeling me now?” The eponymous track of the album Is This How it Ends, and continues with the reflective mood of a former relationship to a backdrop of drum machine and piano accompaniment, echoing the contrasting starkness and softness of the subject at hand.
Musically, mood is lifted with the tracks The Edge and Feel My Pain. However lyrically they both continue with the subjects of loss and rejection, albeit wrapped up in catchy pop songs. The penultimate track of the album is Discovery with a darker feel using vocoder staccato delivered words (“Discovery… Giving… Submit… Control…”) to emphasise the essence of discovering where a new relationship could lead. I really enjoyed this track and would love to hear it in a live setting. Unfortunately I’m unable to make Shelter’s next live date at The Flapper in Birmingham as it is sold out, but I’m hopeful that there will be more future live dates emerging soon.
The album finale is All About Me, which is self-congratulatory track with a cheerleader style opening. The infectious song continues with the aggrandising using vocoder and lyrically talks about after a relationship has ended, where the individual no longer has emotional feelings for the ex. It ends the album somewhat on a high, despite its overall journey of soul-searching, and the inward analysing of one’s feelings.
Is This How It Ends takes the listener on a rollercoaster of emotions, with a subject that we can all relate to; the euphoria of a new relationship, moving into self-doubt that its going as well as you anticipate, the breaking-up process which can often result in confused feelings, and finally when you have got over that person and realising that you have a lot to offer after all, and it’s their loss! It’s a great album with universal appeal, that deserves to do extremely well.
❉ Shelter: ‘Is This How It Ends?’ is out Friday 27 January 2023 on Ministry Of Pop and available for pre-order now. The album will be available in double CD format via: https://www.lexermusic.com/shelter-is-this-how-it-ends-deluxe-2cd-album. The album will also be released worldwide via all the usual digital download and streaming platforms.
❉ A lifelong lover of music and prominent contributor to Me and the Starman (now available by Cult Ink on Amazon), Ange Chan is a Freelance Writer, having produced two novels and six volumes of poetry.