Scottish veterans, The Zephyrs release their sixth album `For Sapphire Needle` this month and it`s their first new album in thirteen years, a mix of folk, rock, and shoegaze, drawing from the likes of Gram Parsons, Big Star and Slowdive. It was originally conceived of as a series of EPs based on the seasons in which they were created, the recordings spanned a year of sessions with long-time collaborator and producer Michael Brennan at his Substation studio, next to a naval port in Rosyth. 

The album opens with `Leatherback` which has that Crazy Horse wall of distorted guitar sound and is a laid back quite reflective number. Why Leatherback?? Maybe it`s something to do with having a hard shell like the turtle it`s named after as the song appears to relate to opening up to a partner in ways that you never thought possible before. There`s a further reflective offering in `God Loves A Trier` where the vocals have that delightfully mellow warm Edinburgh lilt not a Morningside accent but wonderfully enticing and comforting. A thoughtful and introspective outlook shared with gentle guitar chords and a rolling drumbeat. 

` December` is as the band have referred to as a Spaghetti Western instrumental and it does convey that sense of riding along in a desert prairie with some fairly angelic high pitched harmonies. I thought `Snowline` was wonderfully descriptive and possibly a metaphor for our own mortality. It allowed me time to reflect on the few occasions i’ve encountered snow covered mountain settings. It had that Rabbie Burns `Auld Lang Syne` contemplative sentiment and I admit brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye as I had it on repeat play for more times than was probably healthy.  

`Can’t Tell Us Apart` seems to be a break up song where one of the participants  just wants to take the easy option and walk away but the other wants to try and retain some kind of civility. It`s a number that musically sits somewhere between The Teenage Fanclub and The Byrds. We have a superbly melodic number with `Blue In The Face` a fairly upbeat earworm which was interspersed with some charming synth and key colours.   

`I Tell You What` is a fairly serene and low key composition which had much of its writing and recording initiated in a wooden shack near Aviemore which is maybe why it1s so chilled. We have in `Bolder` a track that tells the story of overheard bar-side conversations and delayed flights in Denver airport, where lizard people live underground and some say the new world order lays dormant. A mid paced gently shared piece that relays the story in a kind of non-judgemental way.  

`How Have You Been Today` is a ruminative submission that  tells of interacting with somebody who is clearly suffering from depression and the nigh on hopelessness and inability of somebody close trying to support. A song that could easily have become melancholic but doesn`t with a heart breaking line that runs through it in “how`ve you been today? You wouldn`t tell me anyway”. and piano keys that add a real sense of poignancy to the track. The album closes out with `Aliens` which according to the band was inspired in equal measures by the maturation as social control science fiction of The Tripods and the schlock b-movie imagery of Rocky Erickson’s The Evil One. That sort of went over my head but it`s as if we`ve wandered into a band practice or jam session with some existential lyrics sprayed atop for good measure.  

There was so much to appreciate and imbibe on `For Sapphire Needle` which I read was influenced by the backdrop of where the band rehearse with the triple bridges of Queensferry, the shipbuilding cranes of Rosyth docks and Babcock’s shop, one of the few places in Scotland you can buy a real periscope over the counter. The trio who make up The Zephyrs Stuart Nicol (guitar and vocals), David Nicol (bass and synths) and Robert Dillam (drums) were joined by collaborators John Brennan (guitars) and keyboardist Will Bates to bring their vision to life. 

This album was a stunner and I hope it encourages the band t continue to share their obvious talents again sooner than another dozen or so years. 

The Zephyrs `For Sapphire Needle` is a album that really does deserve to be heard more widely.  

Rating 9 / 10 

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