Mads Pae

Home Really Is Where the Heart Is: BANNERS’ New Album “All Back to Mine”

Music Scene Media
Apr 19, 2024
4 min read

After spending seven years in North America to pursue his dreams, UK pop singer-songwriter BANNERS (aka Michael Nelson) finally made his way back to his hometown of Liverpool. The result of reconnecting with his roots is “All Back to Mine”, a record rich in effervescence and love.

BANNERS’ career took off in 2017 with, “Someone to You”, a catchy indie-pop track that highlights the inescapable human desire to be seen and to be important to someone. “Name in Lights”, the opener of this new album, acts like a prequel to that success, all these years later, by offering the perspective of those who sent him off and have supported him from the very beginning. The lyrics are full of faith in what is possible – ‘I can’t wait to watch you go and say that I knew you’ – he sings what was likely once said to him, and the instrumentation only adds to this sense of championship. 

For many of us, the first experience of love we ever have is at home, and love like that which BANNERS focuses much of this project on, can never stay stagnant. It flows in, grows within, and then pours out of us, as evident in “There Goes My Girl”. The more bare verses permit great contrast for the loaded choruses where he proclaims how much adoration and affection he has for his girl, thanks to all the love already within him. The ballad, “Anywhere For You”, represents another facet by highlighting the nature of endurance that love possesses. The bridge has a symphony that delivers an incredible payoff of the slow build that has been present from the start of the song. ‘If the waves are tryna to take you under, well they’re gonna have to take me too’, he declares, letting his muse know he is not going anywhere, much like how many have done the same for him.

Making songs that vividly express singular experiences and emotions is one of BANNERS’ signatures as an artist. “In Your Universe” focuses on the flash of light between the moment you meet someone and the ground beneath you as you fall for them. The soundscape has a gentle but strong gravitational pull that perfectly aligns with all the astronomical motifs, and emphasizes just how infinite love can feel. “Have You Ever Loved Someone” is a magical and upbeat anthem with a punchy drum that describes how being in love can feel so big that it might tear you apart. “Tell You I Love You” is more acoustic, giving room for the vulnerability and nervousness that comes with wanting to say those three words for the first time to really shine. These are prime examples of how he continues to wonderfully capture explosive life moments. 

“The Best View in Liverpool” has an immersive sonic texture that is nothing short of cinematic. There is a moving sense of intimacy as he sings about ‘that’ hill, which only fellow Liverpool natives would know, and which everyone can imagine their own version of. While this is another pillar in the album that pays homage to his hometown and community, it also sincerely demonstrates how home, and the love it can hold, can also be found in a person. ‘Even in a country you know by heart / it’s hard to go the same way twice’, poet Wendell Berry wrote in “Traveling at Home”; this is made clear when BANNERS goes on to say that the best view in Liverpool is actually anywhere his lover is. 

For all the goodness in life, there are also growing pains, and commenting on the human condition with simplicity and honesty is another one of BANNERS’ strengths. “C’est La Vie” is an aptly named jaunty pop song that delivers bright and cheery sounds with direct lyrics that speak to the negativities that often exist in daily life. The sweet acoustic and piano are a timeless combination for singer-songwriters that allows for unburdened communication and levity without irony or a punchline. “Broken Hearted” has a similar dichotomy of a positive sound with more despondent lyrics. It showcases the range in his writing style, as it tells a more structured story with timestamps. A trip to the supermarket, household chores – heartbreak is woven into mundanity – desire for someone is what follows him throughout the day until he sees them at the bar while out with friends. 

“Perfectly Broken”, originally released in 2022, transforms into a duet with Lily Meola, whose vocals give the song a newfound groundedness. With modern pop verses, a ballad-like chorus, and elegant strings towards the end, this track addresses the jagged edges we are all susceptible to, and may already have, and unfolds the tender truth that no one is truly alone. There is someone, maybe even several people, to match your cracks with their own. Should a listener be in the midst of seemingly total loss, BANNERS has provided “Life’s Just No Fun”, another piano-led song that sounds like it was written in the depths of his own despair. These songs that navigate more sorrowful subjects offer genuine balance to the otherwise optimistic record. 

Not everyone can say that their home has warmth and fondness attached to it, a large number of people cannot say they are from Liverpool, and there may be many people who do not have the love that BANNERS is celebrating, but that doesn’t mean this album isn’t profoundly relatable. Film director Greta Gerwig once said, “The more particular you make something, the more universal it becomes”. Writer Jacqueline Woodson echoed something similar when she said, “Life is in the details. If you generalize it, it doesn’t resonate”. The specificity of BANNERS’ musical ode to the places and people he calls home is what makes it easy to connect to. And just as the onset of this project pointed to those that influenced him, so the end returns to reflect on how deep the love goes in “All That You Made Me”. Home, whatever it may mean to each of us, really is where the heart is. ‘Give me your love I could be anything’, he says, and that is exactly what he’s done so far and is capable of continuing to do. The cosmos open up into a tapestry of possibilities and joys if we let love move us.

The spectrum of growing up is one of oscillating between the fear that everything might change and the fear that everything will stay the same. When reuniting with anyone or any place after a long time, the anxieties can be overwhelming. Both BANNERS and the maritime city of Liverpool have undoubtedly changed several times over in their time apart, but through “All Back to Mine”, he has produced a soundtrack that reminds us of the beautiful privilege it is to be from somewhere, to have a place to return to that belongs to us in this big world, and to love and be loved.

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