“[Sillion] is an expansive album that is tinged with sadness whilst also being obscured by memories”.
According to Wikipedia, sillion is the ‘thick, voluminous, and shiny soil turned over by a plow’. This definition shows that there is a lot of branches growing out of sillion’s meaning. Pleasingly, Johnny Flynn has used this rich word as the title of his fourth studio album, which goes beneath the surface of everyday life to dig up shiny truths.
Flynn’s first studio album, A Larum, was charming, with its Chaucer-like tales about ‘Wayward Priests’ who were drinking a bit too much wine at communion. Though, it all went a bit down hill with his other two albums, ‘Been Listening’ and ‘Country Mile’, which were – quite frankly – a bit tepid. Thankfully, Sillion is different. It is an expansive album that is tinged with sadness while also being obscured by memories.
The opener, ‘Raising the Dead’, is a mournful elegy about Flynn’s late father. It’s an emotional turn to the past – ‘Your’s old man’s in the kitchen/ He’s a smile short of laughing’. Through looking to the past, the past is placed in the present, hence the chorus – ‘Oh, oh, raising the dead, raising the dead…’. The atmospheric wind chimes and Flynn’s deep, honeyed voice helps the song to gently grow on you like the tender passing of time.
Tender it maybe, but that doesn’t make Sillion any less of a difficult listen. It’s an album that aches with melancholy. Indeed, Flynn’s subject matter includes solitude (‘Wandering Aengus’), lovesickness (‘In the Deepest’) and even suicide (‘Heart Sunk Hank’). Flynn balances his music with a successful acting career (do check out ‘Lovesick’ on Netflix). His acting talent burns through this gloomy atmosphere on occasions. He sings his songs in a way that a good actor knows where to stress emotion. If you can get through the tormented ‘Jefferson’s Touch’ with dry eyes, you’re stronger than me.
Album highlights include ‘The Landlord’ and the ‘Barleycorn’ which both draw attention to the diverse spectrum of sound that swells within Sillion. In both songs, the melancholic acoustic guitars are merged with some sixties-inspired electric guitar solos, bringing a vitality to this beautiful but heart-breaking album.
Verdict: Flynn’s best album since A Larum. Sillion swaps the wit for the wisdom of experience.