The Pineapple Thief - Magnolia

The Pineapple Thief – Magnolia

The Pineapple Thief have been intriguing and beguiling audiences since Bruce Soord began what started as a solo project in 1999. This Somerset band continue their musical evolution on their tenth studio release Magnolia, with an album of emotionally laden and musically rich compositions. The delicate tension between sorrow and hope that has characterised so much of The Pineapple Thief’s work over the years has been developed further in a skilfully realised set of songs. These range from the power of Breathe and Alone at Sea, the sumptuous orchestration of the title track, the stark simplicity of From Me, and the affirming uplifting elegy to a lost friend in album closer, Bond.

A recent interview with Soord by Jordan Blum revealed that the album’s title was inspired by a Magnolia Tree he planted in his garden in memory of someone he had lost, and that the tree has come to symbolize Love and Loss. These are recurrent themes for The Pineapple Thief, perhaps most powerfully evoked with so much elegiac beauty in their 2004 album Variations On  A Dream, and in its rawest form  in 2006 on Little Man, imbued with the pain of personal tragedy in losing a child.

Out of sorrow art can be created which soothes the heart and lifts the spirit of both the artist and the audience, as demonstrated on Magnolia, with personal experience and feeling permeating these lovingly crafted songs. Magnolia sees ‘The Thief’ totally move away from what may be contradictorily termed ‘traditional prog’. Long gone are the epic modern ‘Prog’ soundscapes so notably shown in 2007’s under-rated release What We Have Sown. (That song was more or less a ‘leaving present’ for previous label Cyclops before moving to Kscope, reportedly as a result of a suggestion by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree).  This is a band that pursues musical progression with every album, which the band acknowledges can alienate some fans as the ‘Thief Sound’ moves on, but also continually attracts new followers. ‘The Thief’ have always held true to their passion for imagination, quality and excellence in composition and performance at the heart of their music as they strive to convey intangible emotions. Magnolia refines that search in shorter songs, translating into music Soord’s recent observation that Magnolia trees ‘only flower very briefly, but when it blossoms, it’s incredibly beautiful, but it’s also very short. It’s sort of like our existence, I guess’.

Soord suggests with Magnolia that if the listener wants longer songs then play the songs again! More confidence is shown in expressing musical and lyrical ideas in concise form. This is exemplified in Alone at Sea which has an excoriating but brief wailing guitar break halfway through the song (akin to the exhilarating but lengthier 3000 Days from 2010’s album Someone Here is Missing) , which packs just the right punch… and moves on. Occasionally the listener may be left feeling that perhaps a song have needed more room to breathe, such as in Coming Home, but in general these songs say all they need to say without need for expansion.  This development may be partly attributed to new drummer, Daniel Osborne, whom Soord credits with giving new drive and impetus to his song writing. Alongside Osborne, long time band member Jon Sykes provides his usual rock solid bass and soulful backing vocals.  Similarly, stalwart Thief member, Steve Kitch, weaves his imaginative keyboard sounds through the album, possibly most significantly on the powerful Muse-like song Sense of Fear which explodes later in the album like a manic James Bond theme.

Osborne also produces this exquisite sounding album with excellent engineering input from Adam Noble. Soord allowed for more oversight on Magnolia, and unlike previous album All the Wars, he trusted Andrew Skeet of The Divine Comedy to arrange alone the strings that so deftly underpin much of this album. Such trust is well placed on the evidence of the quality and progression of this album. Soord himself has also never sounded so good as a singer. He may have found inspiration and influence from his recent well received collaboration Wisdom of Crowds with singer Jonas Renske of ‘Katatonia’,  exemplified on this album by the gossamer like fragility of A Loneliness, carried by Soord’s finely judged delivery.

Strangely, given some of context this is definitely not an album of depression or overwhelming sadness as the songs are shot through with hope and sometimes a sense of celebration. The album is dedicated to Soord’s long-time friend and collaborator, Steve Coe (previously with 80’s band Monsoon of Ever So Lonely hit fame), who unexpectedly died during the making of this album. (Coe co-wrote a couple of the songs on the excellent Acoustic bonus disc with the special edition, which is worth searching out.) The triumphant finale ‘Bond’ was inspired by his loss, but Soord also defiantly celebrates their relationship. As Skeet’s strings and  Joe Carter’s trumpet soars above the song in celebration Soord sings out:

‘All I have is what you gave me, and I’ll clutch it hard, what you gave me’

Those final lines capture the bitter sweet essence of this album, and so much about why this band has always so ably expressed itself and touched many listeners. The gorgeous artwork of this album by French artist Patrick Gonzales shows a beautiful woman’s head bathed in flowers looking upwards – one cannot be sure what she is thinking or feeling, but you know she signifies the captivating beauty and enigmatic emotions of this album.

01. Simple As That (4:04)
02. Alone At Sea (5:20)
03. Don’t Tell Me (3:33)
04. Magnolia (3:47)
05. Seasons Past (4:13)
06. Coming Home (3:07)
07. The One You Left To Die (4:21)
08. Breathe (2:51)
09. From Me (2:34)
10. Sense Of Fear (4:30)
11. A Loneliness (3:18)
12. Bond (4:29)

Bonus Acoustic Disc
01. The Fins Fan Me (3:57)
02. The One You Left To Die (4:18)
03. Seasons Past (4:18)
04. Don`t Tell Me (2:58)
05. Magnolia (3:47)
06. Steal This Life (4:06)

Total Time: 69:47

Bruce Soord – Vocals, Guitars, Keys & Percussion
Steve Kitch – Piano, Rhodes, Keyboards & Mellotron
Jon Sykes – Bass & Backing Vocals
Daniel Osborne – Drums, Backing Vocals & Percussion
~ with
Violins – Everton Neilson, Richard George, Alison Dods, Natalie Bonner, Patrick Kiernan, Steve Morris, Lucy & Jonathan Evans-Jones
Violas – Bruce White, Rachel Robson & Reiad Chibah
Cello – Chris Worsey & Ian Burdge
Double Bass – Mary Scully
Additional Guitars – Darran Charles
Trumpet – Joe Carter (12)

Record Label: Kscope
Catalogue#: N/A
Year Of Release: 2014

Main Website: The Pineapple Thief
Social Media: Facebook

Magnolia (2014) – Kscope Music
All The Wars (2012) – Kscope Music
Someone Here Is Missing (2010) – Kscope Music
Tightly Wound (2008) – Remastered, remixed & re-released (2013) – Kscope Music
What We Have Sown (2007) – Remastered, remixed & re-released (2012) – Kscope Music
Little Man (2006) – Remastered, remixed & re-released (2010) – Kscope Music
10 Stories Down (2005) – Remastered, remixed & re-released (2011) – Kscope Music
Variations On A Dream (2003) – Remastered, remixed & re-released (2011) – Kscope Music
137 (2001) – Remastered, remixed & re-released as ‘One Three Seven’ (2013) – Kscope Music
Abducting the Unicorn (1999) – Cyclops Records (to be re-released in 2015 by Kscope Music)

3000 Days (2009) Compilation album – Kscope Music