[Fiction; 2020]

It’s taken London quartet Another Sky three years to get from playing their first gig to putting out their debut album, and in that time they’ve figured themselves out as they’ve gone along, and been afforded the space after capitalising on the strength of their early live shows. Gradually coming into focus on record with a pair of EPs and standalone singles, they have nonetheless kept their cards close to their chest – only three previously-released songs made the cut for the debut album. Their sound has been in constant development through debut EP Forget Yourself and last year’s follow-up Life Was Coming In Through the Blinds, and is now something rich with atmosphere and adventurousness.

I Slept on the Floor as a title brings to mind feelings of vulnerability, but the band repurpose those sensations as one of their greatest strengths – achingly personal in nature, their restless 12-track debut refuses to be pinned down, either figuratively or literally. Leader Catrin Vincent is a force to be reckoned with, her distinctive voice – which enters proceedings on opener “How Long?” after more than two minutes of build up and has an immediate impact – lending these songs a dramatic flair that suits them to a tee. She shares guitar duties with Jack Gilbert, with the lineup completed by bassist Naomi LeDune and drummer Max Doohan.

The title track offers a view of I Slept On The Floor in microcosm, opening with Vincent’s treated a capella vocals in a moment of startling sparseness that goes beyond the band’s usual flights of intimacy, and gradually swelling as it segues into “Life Was Coming In Through the Blinds”. In the first part of this double-header they set up the “I am still here, still happening” refrain before they brilliantly recontexualise “Life Was Coming In Through The Blinds” from last year’s EP to pick it up and work it into one of the album’s busiest songs – with each element of its sound carefully chosen. That refrain could sum up the record’s outlook as a whole: even in our lowest moments, we still exist.

From those depths, the quartet choose resilience, whether that’s in the face of attempted erosion of self-worth, as on the jaw-dropping surge of “Brave Face” (“Wearing tolerance on your sleeve just to be worn down”); or the ripple effect of police violence on vulnerable communities as explored on “Avalanche” (“Let the blues through, they’ll restore order / They are not bad men / They’re in schools, they’re boyfriends”).

This will to weather life’s storms is at the heart of the album. Vincent pushes back against misogyny on forceful highlight “Tree”, her voice an instrument of power as the song builds from skeletal beginnings to a cathartic storm: “We were not born to be controlled / Lived quietly just to be told / They’d break us into silence / Well, is the damage done yet?” They go for the jugular on bouncy alt-pop track “Fell in Love With the City”, a song that finds Vincent snatching self-esteem from the jaws of a doomed relationship, set to a chiming guitar riff. It stands out in its immediacy, but with the Another Sky’s sound able to turn on a dime, it reveals just one facet of how they operate

It may tackle heavy themes, but the album excels in the way it juggles impactful songwriting, lyrical candour and unshakeable hooks. Not short of ambition in the least, I Slept on the Floor displays more and more of itself over repeated listens – sure, some songs are easier entryways into the band’s world than others, but the album leaves the greatest impression when listened to from start to finish. With all that time to develop over the years, Another Sky have finally found their voice with a debut album that’s fully realised and utterly engrossing.