Moving to the big city can be quite daunting; you’re on your own, independent. Suddenly, there’s no-one there to make your decisions and you’re left to fend yourself. Singer/songwriter James Page, more commonly known as Sivu did just that, having made the move to London. His debut album, Something On High, touches on this very experience; addressing friendship and freedom with the odd romantic sentiment.
It all started in 2013 with “Better Man Than He,” a beautiful and captivating number which draws you in with its bleak, yet evidently personal lyrics. Upon first listen, you feel as if Sivu is painting a dark image, one of loss and loneliness. But as you unravel the layers, and come to terms with what’s actually being said; you’ll find that hidden behind the negative facade, is a positive sentiment waiting to be unearthed: “We’ll find faith in the most magical of places / And find home in the smallest old ruins”. Everything, from the crashing drums, to Sivu’s fluttery falsetto, create an atmosphere which both grounds and uplifts you.
What makes Something On High unlike any other album of its kind; is the experimentation of sounds and ideas packed into each song. Having Charlie Andrew, the man who oversaw the production of alt-J’s Mercury Prize-Winning An Awesome Wave, work his magic on the entire album proved to be a great asset. Instead of simple guitar lines or a straightforward 4×4 drum beat, we hear woozy electronics, or an emphatic brass section. “Can’t Stop Now,” the album’s most eccentric, upbeat and positive tune perfectly exemplifies this with its passionate drums and percussive inflections. Another highlight of the record has to be “Rumination,” an elegant and utterly captivating brass instrumental which serves as a stunning transition into the cheerier “Bodies.”
Even when the instrumentation is kept to a bare minimum, like the simple guitar melodies in “Sleep” or “Love Lives in This House,” Sivu adds a certain depth and sophistication through his songwriting and vocal delivery. Whilst the heartfelt lyrics and sombre production may comfort some, others may feel slightly overwhelmed by the album’s mostly saddening and downbeat aura. Something On High is the kind of record you’d normally choose to listen to under a certain mood or feeling; that’s something that can be difficult to translate and convey to every listener. With Something On High, Sivu plucks at your heartstrings and elevates you, all at the same time.