Niall Jackson’s follow-up to his solo debut, Murmuration, was written and recorded between March 2020 and March 2022, at a time when much of the world was in confinement. Now Is All is partly an exploration of uneasy feelings that emerged (“loss of identity, an uncertain future, concerns with society’s direction, and getting older against your will”), but, equally, it sounds like a celebration of coping mechanisms.
One of those mechanisms is the act of creating something in the midst of those uneasy feelings, and what seems to underpin this album is a strong thread of optimism. Borrow Sorrow sounds like The Coral jauntily tousling with Nirvana, and Catapult (Me There) and its warm-sounding guitars lay the groundwork for the more strident nature of the title song, where “everybody’s shouting, no one’s listening”.
Now Is All is peppered with light and dark colours, a sense of intimacy as well as expansiveness, where the spectral hand of The Smiths hovers over Kick ’Em Hard in its delicate poignancy, and there is a pleasingly sloping, wayward sound to Stripped Away.
Red Red Evening Sun is like an alternative soundscape to a Sergio Leone western, and Protest Contest brings us towards the heavier end of things, which puts guitar centre stage. That focus slightly shifts on We Crawled, where intricacy reigns, and delightful drums underpin a more swampy kind of vocal, yet it retains a clear vision.