The Sleeping Years
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The Sleeping Years

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When Dale Grundle, aka The Sleeping Years, sings about his hometown and all the magic and misery that surrounds it, he isn't merely following the folk trail most recently taken by Justin Vernon. Rather, Grundle seems quite unique in the plaintive way he can turn simple observations such as the gentle strum of 'Dressed For Rain' into fascinating tales detailing the struggle and depravation he quite possibly endured in the sleepy Northern Ireland town of Coleraine, from where he originates.

For Grundle, it’s been anything but an easy ride to where he finds himself today. His first band Catchers were part of the post-Britpop rush that saw pretty much anything with a Beatles riff and bowl haircut signed amid the mid-‘90s flirtation with R‘n’R hedonism - not that his band particularly fitted; it was more a case of right place, right time. After Catchers drew to a halt, Grundle found himself more at ease writing alone, with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, yet it wasn't until French record label Talitres started to take an interest that the undoubted potential of The Sleeping Years gained fruition.

Having released three completely sold-out EPs last year Grundle, with the help of classically-trained cellist Michelle So, one-time Rothko drummer Tom Page and esteemed engineer-cum-producer Ian Dowling (credits include Daniel Bedingfield, Soulwax and The Kooks), decided the time was right to finally construct an album. Almost a year later, We're Becoming Islands One By One is ready to go.

With the opening acoustic clamour of 'Setting Fire To Sleepy Towns', Grundle sets a scene not too dissimilar to Bright Eyes' 'The Center Of The World', albeit in a more minimalist fashion. Elsewhere, comparisons to both Nick Drake and the whimsical musings of Tim Buckley are unavoidable, particularly on 'The Lockkeeper's Cottage' and 'Broken Homes', but don't be fooled that The Sleeping Years is just another pseudonym for aping greatness from years gone by. What Grundle possesses is an ability to make the most insidious turn of phrase ('The Shape Of Things To Come') seem like a life-affirming exercise in existence and acceptance ("communication and sounds, all jostling for a friend,"_ he opines) while the closing 'Islands' actually feels like it was written as some kind of farewell, a line in the sand as it were, towards his next venture.

With We're Becoming Islands One By One, Dale Grundle has created a record full of simplistic yet timeless melodies that only Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago has really rivalled in recent months. That album was a ridiculously ignored gem that spent far too long bubbling under the surface before people finally pricked their ears up and afforded it some attention. Don't make the same mistake twice: We're Becoming Islands One By One could be remembered as one of 2008's best of its kind in years to come.

8/10 - Drowned in Sound


We Are Becoming Islands One by One is the debut album from The Sleeping Years (a.k.a. Irish singer/songwriter Dale Grundle). Like the EPs that preceded it, this album features Grundle's breathy vocals, perfectly complimented by gently plucked acoustic guitars, twinkling piano and mournful cello. It starts slowly with the gentle Setting Fire to Small Towns and the beautifully understated The Lockkeepers Cottage before You and Me Against the World ups the tempo, with one of the album's poppiest (and finest) moments.

One of Grundle's great strengths is his ability to write beautiful lyrics. The words are frequently cryptic, always poetic and sometimes practically impenetrable. Throughout the album, natural imagery is fused with tales of loss, loneliness and despair. In Macosquin, Coleraine he sings ''The wind banks low, draws a furrow through the fields by the wish stone and while the constellations pin us down, one death makes all the dogs howl''. Not the ideal party album, then.

That's not to say that We Are Becoming Islands One by One is all doom and gloom. Human Blues starts off with a Bonham-esque drum beat and stabbed piano chords, and builds to a dramatic, cello-laden climax, and the frantic drumbeat of Clocks and Clones, coupled with its multi-layered vocal effect make it one of the albums standout tracks.

Although Grundle's songwriting is clearly influenced by the acoustic singer/songwriters you might expect (Nick Drake, Tim Buckley et al), this album doesn’t stay rooted in the past. Album closer, Islands, with its subtle yet driving drums and unearthly e-bowed guitar ebbs and flows, and is closer in sound to The Postal Service or Electric President than it is to, say, John Martyn. - BBC


First surfacing as a solo artist in 2007 with a trilogy of sublime EPs, former Catchers songwriter Dale Grundle continues his reinvention as melancholy acoustic artisan on his exquisite debut album, 'We're becoming islands one by one'. A gorgeous collection of laid-back folk-pop, it's an extraordinary introduction to a hugely talented musician.

Cited as a major influence by Idlewild frontman, Roddy Woomble, Northern Irishman Grundle is no stranger to artistic success. As leader of the Catchers he toured with Pulp, Edwyns Collins, The Divine Comedy and Oasis, and released two remarkable albums of heartfelt jangle-pop to considerable critical acclaim, before re-emerging under the moniker The Sleeping Years.

From the haunting strings and breaks of 'Human Blues' to the shiny arpeggios of 'You and me against the world', and the atmospheric finger picking of 'The Lockkeeper's Cottage', 'We're becoming islands one by one' is pastorial indie-folk at it's finest. With Nick Drake, Neil Young and Donovan as its reference points, it's an inventive LP of unexpected lyrical complexity. Buoyed by the addition of cellist Michelle So and Rothko's Tom Page on drums, Grundle's folk-rock rebirth is assured.
- Rock n Reel


Discography

'We're becoming islands one by one' LP
'You and me against the world' EP
'Setting fire to sleepy towns' EP
'Clocks and clones' EP

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Bio

The Sleeping Years is the new project from Dale Grundle, formerly of the Catchers.

Now signed to French label Talitres Records (Walkmen, Swell, etc) and UK label Rocketgirl (A place to bury strangers, Robin Guthrie, etc), the debut album “We’re becoming Islands One by One”, is a gorgeous exploration of melody and melancholy. A gifted lyricist, Dale’s exquisitely crafted songs tell of people trying to stay connected in a world seemingly designed to keep them apart. He is heavily influenced by the language and culture of his home in Ireland, providing a distinct character to this highly personal collection of songs.

Born in Northern Ireland, Dale started his first band Catchers while at school. Their debut album ‘Mute’ was recorded with Mike Hedges and Catchers went on to tour with Pulp, Edwyn Collins, The Divine Comedy, Dr. John and Oasis. Their second album ‘Stooping to Fit’ was recorded with Nick Drake’s arranger Robert Kirby.

Dale started The Sleeping Years with a trilogy of EPs in 2007, ‘You and Me Against The World’, ‘Setting Fire to Sleepy Towns’ and ‘Clocks and Clones’. They received critical acclaim, featuring on BBC Radio 1’s Introducing, the Guardian’s writer’s play list and on the cover mount of Rolling Stone and Word Magazine. Songs have been heavily played on Gideon Coe’s 6music show, Stuart Bailie’s BBC Radio show, and on French radio, having been championed by France’s answer to John Peel, Bernard Lenoir.

The Sleeping Years toured in 2008 across France, Italy, Belgium, and the UK, including dates in Vienna and Ireland , and shows supporting The Bowerbirds, Damien Jurado and Okkervil River.