Special Agent Set - Year One (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Special Agent Set

Year One (2011)


This is unmistakably a British band–the whole feel of the music, the vocals and the sound have that UK quality, notwithstanding the influences reaching from across the Atlantic as well. It took a few spins for this to start to settle with me as I couldn't really get into it at first, but once it made that breakthrough I am now finding myself playing this over and over. From a UK perspective it reminds me hugely of Annalise and slightly of both Lightyear and Scarper without the horns, and would not have been out of place if released by the awesome Crackle Records. Whilst looking westwards I'd give a nod to bands like the Lawrence Arms and Deminar, although more through the overall feel to the music as opposed to any specific sound.

On initial spins I was left with a sense that this was not something I'd enjoy, but after a while I started to appreciate bits and pieces of what I was hearing until the whole package began to establish itself firmly in my head. The guitars on this release have quite a muffled/muggy quality to them–imagine you're standing outside a venue where a band is playing and you can hear them, but not clearly; that's what the guitars are like and it's reminiscent of a lot of bands maybe 10 to 15 years ago in the UK. I actually like it a lot as it doesn't have that sterile, squeaky clean sound that technology allows bands these days. What you hear is what you'd expect to hear if seeing Special Agent Set live.

Lyrics deal with a number of issues, including those of a personal nature and these work rather well throughout the album. "Talk Is Cheap" covers the problems of not talking to each other when in a relationship (or even a friendship) when, actually, talking is quite an easy (and cheap!) thing to do to ensure people don't drift apart. All that performed in just one minute and 20 seconds, but feeling longer than that.

"Beginnings and Endings" takes this album to another level, though. This song could easily have been written by Annalise and that is a big compliment when you consider how many great songs they wrote. Everything about it makes it stand out as the best track on the record and shows that this band have what it takes to write a great song. I love the lyric "my comfort zone is in irony," which I can readily appreciate and recognise in myself.

Special Agent Set have produced a quality record which should certainly gain them more fans across the UK, and also easily travel westwards across the Atlantic, or eastwards to mainland Europe to gain a wider audience.