Bent were an odd act at times – sometimes very contemporary, other times very outdated; sometimes very “pop”, other times very “alternative”. Their 2004 album Ariels is probably the easiest to define, and it’s also my favourite.
It opens with the one single Comin’ Back, which is another of Bent‘s run of truly beautiful songs, with an exceedingly good vocal delivered by guest singer Rachel Foster. It definitely deserved to be a huge hit, and so perhaps it’s a shame that it flopped so decisively at number 89 in the charts, but by 2004 the charts were becoming increasingly irrelevant, so maybe not.
Most tracks on here are proper songs, and Sunday 29th, with a lovely rippling piano part and slight swing feel is another of the best. It’s also rather touching, and when she asks “why are my arms so empty?” it’s hard not to feel some sympathy.
I Can’t Believe it’s Over was the lead track on the second single, the Flavour Country EP, and is another of the best songs on here. Actually this review could very easily bristle with superlatives, as the lovely As You Fall mixes into the beautiful Silent Life and the tender Sing Me. Slide guitars and string instruments meld together to make something sweepingly wonderful.
In fact, the first song where the dreamlike bubble bursts even slightly is On the Lake, an instrumental which only fails to reach the perfection of its neighbours due to not quite being as melodic as the rest. On any other album, this would still be one of the best.
Now I Must Remember and You are the Oscillator carry the listener through on a continuation of the journey. Ariels may only be an hour in duration, but it packs a lot of very sweet songs in. In fact, Sunday Boy is probably the only one that doesn’t quite have the power of the others, and that’s not for want of trying. It does boast one of the most flamboyant endings on this collection.
Exercise 4 follows, and like all the Exercises before it, it’s a chirpy little instrumental, but this time spiced up with a flute and some enormous synth swells. Then finally, the beautifully dark and aquatic full eight and a half minute take of The Waters Deep brings an exemplary album to a very watery end. You can pretty much feel the seaweed brushing past you.
Overall, there’s nothing very uptempo on here, but if what you’re looking for is gentle, laid back, and very sweet, then Ariels has plenty of that.
You can still find Ariels at all major retailers.