Audio Mixer: Paul Gregory.
Though the term "supergroup" is used so often that it's nearly meaningless, there's no denying that the members of Minor Victories boast impressive résumés. The legacies of Stuart Braithwaite's work with Mogwai and Rachel Goswell's time with Slowdive are well-known, while Justin Lockey made a name for himself with Editors in the 2010s, and the talents of his brother James range from music to filmmaking. More importantly, the band's self-titled debut album proves they can combine their talents in ways that sound organic. Unlike many star-studded projects, there's no showboating here. What could have been a hodge-podge of massive guitars, crystalline vocals, and moody atmospheres vying for center stage is, instead, a set of songs that sound like the work of a long-running band (even though the bandmembers recorded most of their parts via long-distance collaboration and pieced them together later). At times, Minor Victories sounds exactly like what might be expected from this collaboration; "Folk Arp" and "Out to Sea" are equally indebted to Mogwai's heft and Slowdive's delicacy. Those longing to hear Goswell sing a new batch of songs won't be disappointed. Though she's surrounded by a soundtrack-worthy sweep of strings and drums on "Breaking My Light," she holds her own and sounds both fragile and resilient, a trick she repeats on the beautiful finale "Higher Hopes." While Minor Victories would have satisfied many fans if it continued in this vein, the band also explores different aspects of their music. The synth arpeggios that add extra drama to "A Hundred Ropes" call to mind Mogwai's electronic side, and the thumb piano on "The Thief" is a welcome surprise. Minor Victories drafts two other notable indie figures to further broaden their horizons: the Twilight Sad's James Graham joins the group on the lovely "Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard)," which adds some '60s pop flair to the mix with fuzz bass and reverb-drenched beats, while Red House Painters' Mark Kozelek duets with Goswell on "For You Always," a recollection of how they were each other's "one who got away" that's mostly sweet, even with Kozelek's mention of sleeping with "some ho" instead of connecting with Goswell. While Minor Victories builds on its members' legacies, the band sounds more excited about the present and the future than looking back. ~ Heather Phares