Back & better than ever
When it comes to Britpop, Travis is unquestionably the gold standard of quality, consistency and longevity. Founded in Glasgow in 1990 by lead singer Fran Healy, guitarist Andy Dunlop, bassist Dougie Payne and drummer Neil Primrose, the Scottish soft rock band has reigned supreme for decades. Now, 23 years after the release of debut album Good Feeling, Travis returns to form on ninth studio album 10 Songs.
On 10 Songs, after co-writing several albums, singer Fran Healy reclaims the mantle of principal songwriter. According to a press release preceding the album, “10 Songs is an album about the way life comes at love and what love does to weather those challenges… There’s sizzling synergy in abundance, and many of its songs benefit from the almost psychic sense of mutual attunement that comes from being in a band whose line-up hasn’t changed in its entire collective lifetime.” And although the majority of the tracks on 10 Songs may sound sad, they come from a place of contented retrospection. Just check out the recently released videos for “A Ghost” and “The Only Thing”–despite decidedly wistful overtones, Travis is more imaginative and playful than ever. 10 Songs is a melancholy yet serene, sorrowful yet graceful album that bittersweetly reflects on themes of love, companionship and aging together.
Throughout 10 Songs, Travis does an impressive job of balancing dejection and levity. This balance is particularly clear on “Kissing in the Wind,” a bittersweet alt-rock track with a stellar string section, and single “The Only Thing.” Featuring singer-songwriter Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles, “The Only Thing” is a contemplative love song with spellbinding harmonies and evocative lyrics. Similarly, “A Ghost” combines alternative, folk and pop influences with rich lyrical storytelling. “A Ghost” is also remarkably quotable: “It’s easier to be alive than hide under your pillow while your life is passing you by/ So live your life/ Don’t waste your time,” sings Healy. Fun fact: the song’s music video was painstakingly hand-drawn by Healy and his 14-year-old son over the course of four weeks.
10 Songs’ edgiest track is indubitably “Valentine,” a dark, pulsating blues rock song imbued with raw, pent-up anger and misery. It’s an exceptionally rousing track elevated further by context–“Valentine” is a perfect stress release for anyone who’s frustrated or restless with quarantine life. Conversely, two of the album’s other standouts are also the slowest and most heartfelt. While “A Million Hearts” is a sentimental piano-driven ballad reflecting on the past and the perpetual difficulty of moving forward, “No Love Lost” is an anhedonic feels trip reminiscent of Gary Jules’ “Mad World” and Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” It’s a poignant song about numbness, loneliness and depression that’s made for lying in bed, staring out the window and gazing at overcast skies. “I woke up feeling shit this morning,” Healy sings detachedly. “Standing at the window yawning/ Watching the rain/ I never really felt belonging.”
30 years into their career, Travis is better than ever. 10 Songs is a triumphant return to form that not only showcases the timelessness and timeliness of Healy’s songwriting, but also inducts new hits into the band’s ever-growing pantheon. With upbeat, bittersweet and sad songs galore–and everything in between–Travis’ latest album will satisfy new listeners and longtime fans alike.