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Album review: Kodaline - Politics of Living


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Kodaline's debut album, In a Perfect World, was praised for its uniqueness with the subtle hint of folk, acoustic piano and guitar brilliance. The use of the harmonica and stunning lyrics were done justice by Steve Kodaline’s effortless charm.

‘All I want’ and ‘High Hopes’ have in a way defined the quartet’s success, with their tear-jerking music videos and deeply profound lyrics. The second album, Coming Up For Air, showed a large progression from the first, with more of an emphasis on production in many of their songs, yet still producing emotional singalongs. Politics of Living has proved to do much of the same.

The first track, a pre-released single, instantly establishes a different style for the band. ‘Follow Your Fire’ features soft, syncopated piano chords and a slight husk in the lead’s voice, and showcases the band’s capacity to create beautiful lyrics – "You had the moves to make me dance with you / I always saw you reaching and catching stars”. Although catchy and built up, the over-produced chorus and distortion of “Did you follow your, follow your fire” is unexpected and almost jarring.

The second track, ‘Hide And Seek’ has a similar formulation – delicate piano chords merged with a dizzy dance beat and even a slight bass drop. Once again, though the track demonstrates excellent vocal and lyrical ability, its backing vocals in particular, make the track sound like a flat pop anthem. In addition, ‘Worth It’ and ‘Don’t Come Around’ are filled with such heavy, pop and synth-based beats and instrumentals, Kodaline become almost unrecognisable. ‘Born Again’ is saturated with hollow emotion behind its lyrics; the songs and their lyrics don’t sparkle like they do when they are performed acoustically, without the excessive production and auto-tune decoration.

That being said, Politics of Living does boast some successful experimentation. ‘I Wouldn’t Be’ is an appreciation of all the people who make us who we are; “I wouldn't be the brother I am / Without a sister who understands my ambitions and dreams / We always were on the same team / I wouldn't be who I am”. The song is predominantly acapella; the void of a backing is filled with stunning vocal arrangements, similar to those in Amber Run’s ‘Haze’. The addition of bagpipes, although sporadic, make an addition to the song’s climax.

‘Brother’, exemplifying Kodaline’s vocal range and ability, is about the death of a close friend. “Heaven only knows / If we'll make it back with all our fingers and our toes / 5 years, 20 years, come back / It will always be the same”. Moreover, ‘Hell Froze Over’ exudes a jazz-style aggression, something completely new for the band. Quick vocal rhythms, distorted guitar rhythms and a drum machine beat are welcomed, powering the song’s anger, “Maybe if Hell froze over, we could be in love again”.

Though exploring new avenues, Kodaline prove that they can still churn out some singalong anthems. ‘Shed a Tear’ is a song of solidarity with a full-bodied vocal reinforcement of deep male voices and a catchy chorus. ‘Head Held High’ is a sugary sweet anthem that exdues optimism, with its auto-tuned background, and uplifting music video. “You need a little light to guide the way / Waiting on the sun to shine again / You got to keep your head up high”; it's a song ready-made for concerts.

Politics of Living wouldn’t be a Kodaline album without a tear-jerker. ‘Angel’ was written about Ciara Lawlor, a 17-year-old who died at a Kodaline concert in Dublin of a pre-existing health condition. Her passing deeply affected the band, which is exemplified through beautiful lyrics: “Tonight we sent an angel home...sing out and celebrate her soul...tonight she’ll go where we can’t go”. The hazy vocals offset a Gospel-esque backing.

While Politics of Living delivers emotional depth and meaningful lyrics, it leaves fans yearning for their original, untouched and uncommercial sound.

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