Considering that ‘You Are Here’ is South’s fifth album, I am slightly disappointed by the output. The band show in places that they have all the raw materials to produce a great album, but this effort suggests that the London trio are less than the sum of their parts.
The majority of the album is made up of ambient alt-rock which makes it easy to see how the band was signed earlier in their career by UNKLE maestro James Lavelle. Opening track ‘Waster’ is the best example of this style, and sets a high standard which South fail to consistently reproduce over the course of the album. Musically there are similarities to Death Cab for Cutie, but Joel Cadbury’s vocal rarely reaches the heights of this opening track, sometimes becoming so inaudible that it’s almost unnecessary.
South are at their best when producing atmospheric psychadelia such as ‘There Goes Your Life’, which sounds like Jupiter-era Cave In covering Pink Floyd’s early material and throwing in Beach Boys melodies. Similarly, the grandiose ‘Zither Song’ shows a depth in musical ability and a grand scope which highlights the band’s determination not to be easily pigeonholed.
Unfortunately, South appear to suffer from a tendency to branch out into genres they are unable to fully grasp. ‘She’s Half Crazy’ is a brave attempt to introduce a funkier edge to the album, but it doesn’t work in combination with Cadbury’s Curtis-meets-Gibbard vocal, with the singer seeming more uncomfortable with every passing note.
The music exploration on ‘You Are Here’ does not always fail, with the more textbook indie-rock of ‘Lonely Highs’ and the Strokes-esque ‘Sound Receivers’ putting the band’s talents to best use. Still, South need to play to their strengths, and I’m not sure they are fully aware of what this entails. Sadly, considering that this is the band’s fifth album, I’m unsure whether they ever will.