UFO Stories, the follow-up release to In Sequence by the Bristol, England-based band Forest Giants, is a six-track album that combines guitar, percussion, and violins to create sometimes punky, oftentimes whimsical, and always enveloping cascade of sounds.
The band is clearly full of ambition and passion for their music. They have even made a film for UFO Stories that they plan to show on TV screens behind them during their live shows. The four-piece group is made up of Tom Rippington on guitar/vocals, Ruth Cochrane on bass, Tom Adams on drums, and Paula Knight on violin and keyboards. While this release has just six tracks (or eight, if you nab one of the first pressed CDs with two hidden tracks), UFO Stories is a strong release that shows promise of getting Forest Giants some more notice beyond the confines of England.
The first song, "Beards", is an atmospheric, feel-good, comfortably fuzzy pop song, invoking strains of Jesus & Mary Chain in its starry-eyed glow. "Oh No" follows it up, with a semi-foreboding feeling at the start which morphs into a guitar-heavy rock song. These two opening songs quickly show that Forest Giants have got the indie guitar sound down. The third track, "Peculiar Feeling", was written in homage to Elliott Smith, who died during the making of this CD. Semi-acoustic guitar is accompanied by Knight's somber and mesmerizing violin accompaniment, making this a highlight on the release.
The UFO theme really starts to come into play on the next two tracks. "Sunrise" opens with UFO reports in the background and inexplicably joyous feedback and vocals with a hazy, REM-esque quality; a flourishing guitar/percussion sequence ends the song in an uplifting mood. The title track which follows is an "off the beaten path" piece, with Rippington reciting a UFO-abduction story over a steady background beat. The CD wraps up with "Late Night in the Park", which begins as a lonely, quiet ballad and slowly picks up. If you've snagged one of the first pressed CDs, there are two more songs that follow. The first is called "Interlude", which is basically one minute and 48 seconds of hearing what it might sound like if one was actually abducted by aliens. (Was the band?) "World Goes Round" contains a sad story about a family breaking apart, but still manages to remain a hopeful song. It might be a bit on the "chin up, you're not alone" side, but it's forgivable, and is a good way to end a very polished album.
What's with the UFO thing, you might be asking? Rippington tries to explain, saying, "We've always been fascinated by ufos — or rather, by the people who are fascinated by ufos. In the USA, one in ten people claim to have had a close encounter of some kind, so maybe there is something going on out there…we leave it up to you to make up your own minds."
Just as plausible an explanation is Forest Giants themselves, as an otherworldly, enigmatic, and ethereal band that seemingly arrived out of nowhere and is poised to ensnare pretty-pop fans across the globe.