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Elbow | Giants of All Sizes

The Mancunian alt-rock progressives stretch their legs with their eighth album.

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WHO ARE THEY? Singer-guitarist Guy Garvey and his long-serving band of stylishly progressive alt-rock Mancunians — all of whom have been playing together nearly 30 years, but sadly remain one of the best British acts most North Americans have never heard.

WHAT IS THIS? Their eighth studio album since 2001, and the latest in a line of superb releases that seldom fail to garner four-star reviews and win plenty of awards in their homeland while barely making a ripple on this side of the Atlantic.

WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Elbow stretching their legs. According to Garvey, the band loosened the reins this time by recording live in the studio, embracing sonic explorations and trusting their instincts instead of trying to find compromise. Augment that with lyrics that tackle everything from the deaths of family members to the decline of the British empire and you’ve got the distinctively different and daring Giants of All Sizes.

WHAT SHOULD IT BE TITLED? Akimbo.

HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? With that eccentric little guy in your circle who worships Genesis (we all know one) but still hasn’t been able to connect with these guys.

WHAT 10 WORDS DESCRIBE IT? Reinvigorated, unpredictable, dynamic, intricate, permissive, intriguing, artsy, progressive, agitated.

WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? The darkly buzzing and deeply grooving opener Dexter and Sinister; the politically fatalistic Empires; the grandly swelling White Noise White Heat; the soaring (and more stylistically familiar) closer Weightless.

WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS SAY? ‘If these guys were a bunch of hip pretty boys instead of bearded old sods, I bet they’d be huge.’

HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO THIS? How often do you want to experience greatness?

IF THIS ALBUM WERE A VENN DIAGRAM, WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE? Three overlapping circles containing The Beatles, Genesis and Radiohead, with Elbow planted dead centre between them all.

SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? If albums like this can’t make a buck, the entire music industry might as well just call it a day.