This is not rock and roll, this is not even pop music, it's something much more than that. It really is impossible to pigeon hole this record - and that in itself is surely a good thing. Its qualities are ethereal and atmospheric in the extreme, enough to leave you feeling dreamy and breathless. Like the sound of your heart strings snapping, like the sound of a smile cracking, like the faint gasp of your last hopes dying, or the nervous sigh of your first love blooming...Coastal have captured it all.
I have already intimated that 'Halfway To You' is difficult to describe, suffice to say it is an album of sheer, gliding and shimmering fragile beauty. Its sound-scape is that of a delicate exotic flower - and as Oscar Wilde once stated 'touch it, and the bloom is gone'. The closest references points that I can suggest are Mojave 3 and Low, but frankly both of these fall short of the beauty imparted by Coastal on this record. It is nothing short of breathtaking, it is stunning. Simple, and uncomplicated; fragile, yet powerful, it's difficult to pin down, yet it has a living, breathing and unmistakeable presence all of its own.
It would be too easy to simply play this record as background music - it could be quite unobtrusive, but sit down and listen to it with a sympathetic ear and you will be transported to a place more beautiful than you ever imagined possible. The first track, 'Until You Sleep' is a gentle swaying acoustic recognition of lost love. The casually faraway vocal combination of Jason and Luisa Gough is utterly compelling, spine tingling.
'Eternal' follows, and is totally overwhelming, lyrically and musically. A sparse composition of guitar and strings, punctuated by the occasional bell - it makes for a far stronger foundation than you would imagine. The luxurious, yet desolate layered, textured vocal harmonies are simply stunning. There is no other word for it...
The title track is a slightly more up-tempo, rhythmic composition - without coming close to being up-tempo at all - it's all relative. A gentle swoon of a song, carved up by lo-fi spoken word excursions. On first listening it's the most obviously memorable track, that is until the rest of the album washes over you and leaves you bathed in its own particularly certain kind of wonderful.
'Leaves' retreats without a great deal of fuss to a simpler styling, whilst 'Night Sky', an instrumental, sees the return of a bona fide rhythm section, which whilst boosting the overall sound still manages to leave us with a soothingly melancholic optimism. 'We Won't Last Another Year' continues along the same lines, with gentle hisses of cymbal, and - wait for it - a xylophone solo. Coastal are not going to get you grooving around the living room, but they'll certainly provide a luscious soundtrack to long dark nights, curled up on the sofa, or to lazy long days bathed in sunshine.
The themes of optimism and melancholia are both represented in equal measure, and 'Drift' is a perfect example of how optimism, and generally feeling good about the future doesn't have to be all bouncy pop beats and silly little choruses. The vocal tracks are simple, one echoing the sentiments of the other, never conflicting, just complimenting.
Closing the album are tracks 'London in February' which again is a dreamy, atmospheric pseudo-instrumental with vocal tracks being used as extra instrumentation. It's similar in nature to 'Endgame' by R.E.M, but much gentler, a softer and easily more pleasing number; and finally 'So Close', a direct, plain talking eight minute epic. Musically it's more of the same, the subtle, yet regimented drumming, the complimentary, harmonious duet-ing vocals, the smooth, effortless guitar, and sashaying cymbal swoops. The track builds gradually, introducing mild electronica which only enhances the already pristine musical offering, before slowly taking out one section after another, as just as the music built up to a central crescendo, it slowly fades into the ether.
Both simple, and stunning. Simply stunning.