Album review: Iain Archer – To The Pine Roots

Iain Archer is not hugely known by name, but his material has graced thousands of indie kids’ ears thanks to his former life as a member of Snow Patrol. His main role was as a lyricist with mate and cohort Gary Lightbody and although his own vocals are sweet, airy and soft, the similarities pretty much end there.

Archer’s To The Pine Roots is Celtic country folk, creating images of peace and tranquillity from his days growing up in Northern Ireland, living in Scotland, or his trips to Germany. The album itself fell into place in a cottage by the Black Forest, where it was conceived, written and recorded. This holistic approach makes the whole thing feel like one magical moment in time. It’s beautiful, relaxed, serene and ethereal, just like the views Archer would have seen as he looked out of his cottage window every morning.

This is not a collection of memorable and catchy tunes, or even hugely original songs, but together they are like a photo album of a favourite holiday. Archer’s sometimes childlike voice, cracking at its softness, and his fluid guitar playing keep To The Pine Roots flowing like a river. An occasional change of pace is always welcome, as are wonderful moments when guitar is joined by harmonium or heavier percussion.

But it’s the song writing that makes this album a joy to listen to, with pretty and observational lyrics like opener Acrobat and the lovely Streamer on a Kite, nodding to the likes of Fionn Regan with a twist of Ryan Adams or Ben Kweller. Then there’s the edge of Beatle-ness in Black Mountain Quarry, with its Abbey Road percussion and White Album mentality.

Although Archer’s voice can grate a little and his songs don’t quite reach the point where you’re moved to tears or beaming with pure happiness, To The Pine Roots is a pleasure, an escape to green hills and a little package of loveliness.

Words: Gemma Hampson