This ‘Family Machine’ article was written by John Hughes, a GIGsoup contributor

3*Oxford based band Family Machine formed in 2006 and released their first album way back in 2008, making ‘Houses That You Lived In’ their first new release in just under seven years. The band, signed to their own record label, The Beard Museum, are well known in the area of Oxford and have been influential in the live music scene of the area. Front man Jamie Hyatt (formerly of The Daisies) has been gigging in the area since the mid 90’s, and alongside bassist Darren Feller and drummer Jason Stilwell, has found local acclaim with Family Machine.

The album immediately has a warm and tender feel. The track’ Houses That You Lived In’, that shares its name with the album, has the listener humming and knee drumming along instantly. One is struck by the intricacy and beauty of the vocal harmony work of the band throughout this album. A lot of modern bands miss the beauty and emotiveness that a well-built vocal can give a song. Although simplistic the guitar parts were effective and memorable and the drummers work is beautifully placed in the pragmatism of the songs.

The album’s lead track is strange choice. ‘The Less You Know,’ although a very nice song, does not have the strength and feel of the others. The introduction and vocal are both pleasant, but the song feels like it needs a lift at some point. It never really kicks enough to make it a stand out song within the album. The title song would arguably have been a much more obvious and stronger choice as it has a fun, familiar and enjoyable tone.

The stand out song in the album though is the collaboration with Anna Log from We Aeronauts on ‘Quiet as a Mouse’. Her beautiful luxurious vocal tone lends itself brilliantly to the lovely guitar work of this talented band. The harmonic ability of the group only managed to emphasise the stunning quality of Anna’s voice. The subtle use of synthesised sounds and samples helps with the quaint retro nineties feel of the rest of the album.

This however, is not a ground-breaking album, and does not the break the mould for modern music, rather it gives us a tender reminder of what music was like in time gone by. A lot of the band’s influence still lies in 90’s music with some of the album having an American indie feel and the other tracks feeling almost Brit-pop-esque, but this is no detriment.  This album is well written, arranged and produced, and well worth a listen to anyone who enjoyed the guitar and vocal heavy, middle of the road tones of the 90’s.

‘Houses That You Lived In’ is out now via Beard Museum

3*

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