A collection of sublimely fragile, haunting and heartfelt songs, Familial is likely to surprise many—and not solely because these beautifully understated performances are coming from a drummer. Familial is so persuasively good as to make a case for Selway as a natural born singer-songwriter.
The very first seeds of Familial were planted in 2001 when Neil Finn organized an impromptu gathering of talent, including Johnny Marr, Eddie Vedder, Lisa Germano, former Soul Coughing bassist Sebastian Steinberg, Selway and his Radiohead bandmate Ed O’Brien, in aid of charity. The resulting album 7 Worlds Collide was credited to Neil Finn and Friends, but when the project was revived in 2008 the singing/songwriting was divided among the ranks, which by then included members of Wilco. During those sessions at Finn’s Auckland studio, Philip came up with Familial’s “The Ties That Bind Us,” on which he made his debut as a lead vocalist. That song, and an earlier number, “The Witching Hour”–also on Familial—appeared on 7WC’s The Sun Came Out album, released August 2009.
Back home, Selway asked Courtyard Studios’ resident engineer and producer Ian Davenport to work with him on sessions that would yield Familial. Selway then invited Germano, Steinberg, and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Sansone to join him in the studio. Familial finds these varied and accomplished creative voices working in concert to craft a subtly complex and completely hypnotic atmosphere. Curiously, traditional drumming is virtually absent from the record, which favors underlying textures and loops for percussion. At times Familial’s beats and instrumental colours are so subtle, it seems as if the acoustic air in the room is setting the mood, leaving space for the lyrics, which clearly come from the most intimate of places.
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