Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Mice On Stilts - I Am Proud of You CD (album) cover


Mice On Stilts


Crossover Prog

4.11 | 50 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars Master songwriter Ben Morley is back with his first album since 2016's masterpiece, Hope for a Mourning--an album that has steadily climbed my list of all-time favorite albums to where it has lately been sitting at number 81. Ben has apparently been going through a lot of tough times--much of which are reflected in the music and lyrics of this album.

1. "Edge of the Garden" (7:30) nighttime nature sounds precedes the entrance of Ben's guitar and voice. This is a patterns that we're going to see a lot on this album: an opening and first verse of acoustic guitar play as lone support for Ben's plaintive voice. Cello, piano, flute, and female and male harmony vocals join in during successive verses, each coming and going in unpredictable fashion. At the end of the third minute there is a coming out party for an instrumental section as low drums, cello, flutes, synths, and bass all join together to fill the auralsphere--and they stay as Ben & co. return to sing more chorus-like vocal lines. Then at 5:05 we return to the bare-bones acoustic palette of the opening minute for a spell--until at 5:38 the drums finally lay down the law with a willful pattern that encourages the joinder of electric bass, electric guitar, organ, and solo trumpet. Awesome! (13.75/15)

2. "The Wreck of the Wahine" (5:00) two picked guitars playing off one-another open this one, creating a beautiful weave, over which Ben sings a quite strong, forward vocal. What a voice! Another one of those singers who makes unpredictable and unusual note choices as he creates his melodies (reminding me of the uber-gifted chanteuse from iNFiNiEN, Chrissy Loftus). Ben's incredibly emotive voice also reminds me of the late great Robbie Wilson of AUTUMN CHORUS. The music continues to build in a Post Rock kind of way to its conclusion. (No, Ben did not really lose control.) (9.25/10)

3. "Devotion Decline" (5:21) this one reminds me so much like the vocal story-telling talents and musical delivery approach of Bristol (England)'s late great singer-songwriter, Nick Talbot (of GRAVENHURST). heavily orchestrated, this one definitely feels like a chamber collaboration as piano, picked acoustic guitars, keening cello, drums, strings synths, and multiple background "choir" vocals all contribute to the thick, lush soundscape used to carry the story. It all builds and builds until the end of the fourth minute when everything cuts away until cello and piano are the only two instruments supporting (and weaving in and around) Ben's voice. Great instrumental finish. Great composition. (9.25/10)

4. "Grey Diving Bell" (3:40) beautiful melodies and singing supported by folk guitar and, later, as the song develops, piano, double bass, cello, horns. Ben and his record company released a version of this one back in December of 2021 but I'm glad they chose to include it on this album. (9.125/10)

5. "When Will We See the Day?" (3:53) another song that opens with just Ben singing over his gently-picked acoustic guitar. Strings and simply-brushed drum kit join in during the second minute. Saxophone and full drums move forward during the instrumental second half while strings continue to lay down a beautifully flowing background. Beautiful! (9.25/10)

6. "National Radio" (7:25) the early release "hit" of the album. Again, the Nick Talbot comparisons are definitely warranted as there is a creepy feel to the sparsely percussive piano and drum support given Ben's vocal for the first 2:25. Then full band with banked horns join in--until 3:28 when everything cuts out to make way for a kind of chamber strings-and-piano interlude. The second half of the song proceeds as if a kind of jam for sax, electric guitar, drums, and Ben's vocalizations. Very cool! A top three song for me. (9.333/10)

7. "Ranges in the West" (5:16) picked acoustic guitar and Ben open this one; ben's lilting vocal so heart-wrenchingly beautiful--reminding me, again, of the kind of vocal melody choices that the late Robbie Wilson would make. Cello and background female vocal joins in for the chorus before giving way to a chamber strings bridge back to the next verse. Piano, bass, and distant background vocals are much more prominent here. What amazing key and melody shifts! And I love the cello, violin, and Uilleann pipe additions. Such a masterful composition--I feel as if I've just been witness to an Alfred Hitchcock film. Definitely a top three song for me. (10/10)

8. "Through the Kauri" (4:33) female torch singer Jasmine Balmer opens this one, singing over gentle piano accompaniment with synth and vocal incidentals contributing in the background. At 1:20, Ben and the rest of the band take the reins over, full drums at 2:20. By the time the fourth minute rolls around, a wailing violin-sounding electric guitar has entered and taken over the lead, taking the song almost to its EBERHARD WEBER-like end. Very cool song. Another top three for me. (9.333/10)

9. "Jigsaw Legs" (7:23) strummed acoustic guitars and jazzy double bass open this one giving it an almost BRUCE COCKBURN feel. But then Ben enters, singing in a lighter, higher register. A more quirky song than is typical, the lyrical content and vocal delivery, however, only serve to amp up the eerie-creep factor. Masterful in the same way Nick Talbot could sing a beautiful melody and tone to deliver a song about pyromania or other odd and disturbing mindsets. Amazing! And then there's the off-kilter instrumental finish: 90 seconds of odd reverb, space, and detuned string twangs and reverse electric guitar sounds. Brilliant! (14.25/15)

10. "Anxiety Baby" (6:08) bleeding over from the previous song definitely sets this one up for an eerie, disturbing start. And it really delivers. The music and vocal opens as if being performed by someone who's unhinged (perhaps a recollection of a suicide attempt or imagined suicide?) The music expands richly over the monotonously pounding drum and bass play with with dancing synths and layers of strings until at 5:08 the drums, bass, and organ launch into a very heavy, if brief, instrumental finale. (9/10)

11. "To Somewhere Else" (4:33) contemplative solo piano is joined by Ben's plaintive voice singing as if looking back on a life retrospectively. Background "ooo"'s and "eee"'s with floatacious flute and discombobulated strings join in for support and effect during the second minute. I guess this must be the entry to Heaven. During the third and fourth minutes, then, the music all gels a bit into some smoother, more seemless textures before dropping off and giving way to cricket sounds. Again, masterful song-structuring. (9/10)

Total Time 60:42

Due to my love of the band's previous two albums, this one arrived with rather high expectations. One of the most notable observations of my listening experience with this album was how damn fast each song passed! Nothing drags despite the slower tempos and occasionally morosely heavy music and lyrics. The music often starts out with a sparse, folk-like atmosphere--usually Ben and one other instrument--making the music feel very similar to that of Nick Talbot's final Gravenhurst album, 2012's The Ghost in Daylight, but then they build with the gradual--or sometimes sudden-- addition of other stringed and wind instruments. This is not so different from the songwriting styles as expressed on previous Mice On Stilts albums, it just that the bare bones of each song here feel much more acoustically pronounced- -even the embellishing instruments feel more "acoustic" than electronic (though I have the feeling that there is quite a bit of the latter throughout the album--disguised for the fact that they are doubling up real, acoustic instruments in the foreground.

A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of emotional Chamber-Folk prog. Highly recommended for any music lover who has the patience and time to sit and be immersed in emotion-packed beauty.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this MICE ON STILTS review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.