Philophobia is the fear of falling in love or emotional attachment. But you need not worry, Amber Run’s third album is far more than the mating call of the ‘soft boy’. It is an intense, frustrated, often melancholic diatribe about love. About almost love. About what feels like love. About overthinking love.
The obvious singles are Neon Circus and What Could Be A Lonely As Love but beyond the heavy guitars is a gentleness explored in the more familiar Amber Run-esque songs such as Affection and Medicine. Fans of the lo-fi 5AM, Fickle Game era Amber Run may feel a little put out at times. This is Amber Run ready to rock. The crescendos on The Darkness Has A Voice kill any perception you might have of this being a sleepy, indie album.
What works about this album is the soaring gentleness that could be considered their signature sound. It takes a laid-back band for loud guitars to be count as experimental, but here they are. They work brilliantly too. Full of throbbing keys courtesy of Henry Wyeth but also odd SFX, little jingles and even subtle voice-overs, Amber Run are treading new ground. The first track is an intense piano solo straight out of a Channel 4 drama or trailer for any BBC film. Philophobia really takes off when it finds moments of purpose, when it wrestles with love rather than talks about it. At times the lyrics feel more like lip service to ideas than probing analysis, but never for a moment do they feel anything less than honest.
Closing with heavy, echoing church hall pianos, Worship is the album in miniature – a harrowing portrayal of the addictive side of love, the possessive side of love. When you give your all to a love now gone, what exactly do you have left?
Philophobia doesn’t say anything particularly new. But what it does say is relatable, and when love smacks of pain and longing, isn’t that exactly what we want? Songs that can relate, a voice that says what we struggled to put to words. And Joshua Keogh, what a voice.