Phil Toal ‘Ebb & Flow’

William Bridges, an acclaimed academic in the work of grief counselling and change management, created ‘The Transition Curve’ as a way to describe expected human behaviour following a change in circumstance.   Often used as a model to map the end of a relationship, The Transition Curve suggests that there are three key stages a human moves through before being able to place minimal importance on a past relationship; ‘Ending’, ‘Losing’ and ‘Letting go’.

Whether a scholar of Bridges or not, Phil Toal’s ‘Ebb and Flow’ album is an interesting exploration of heartbreak, and the end of a relationship, using each of the transition stages.  Centred around initial feelings of loss, moving onto the erratic behaviour that follows grief, and ending with optimism, ‘Ebb and Flow’ maps out an individual’s experience of the end of a relationship and follows it through to the beginnings of being able to consider starting a new one.

Accessible in its, mostly acoustic, sound, ‘Ebb and Flow’ is created from gentle lyrics, intimate melodies and introspective, Neil Finn styled, pop music.  Opener ‘Back to the start’ with it’s Wonderwall sounding acoustic melody line mixes up the chronology of Bridge’s Transition Curve, landing us on a positive, redemptive, opener with it’s belief that ‘this too shall pass’ and it’s knowingness that heartbreak can’t last forever.  There are similar themes elsewhere on the album, with highlights ‘New birth’ and ‘til I’m with you’, both upbeat in their narrative as well as their sound (jazz styled acoustica and a Richard Hawley 1950’s throwback), providing optimism for the future.

Spanning all elements of Bridge’s curve, Toal spends the album using his acoustic guitar to investigate his break up feelings.  Further highlights ‘Never even cried’, an investigation of the pain created when you know that a former partner is apathetic to a breakup, as well as the lovely gentle ‘southbound’, an investigation of running away, offer both fine songs and song writing and although mostly acoustic, Toal does layer his sound to ensure that each song uses a number of instruments as isn’t just a songwriter-by-numbers sort of album.

Whilst Ebb and Flow is a well-composed album, and a chronicling of different emotions which stem from heart-break, it would be interesting to know if our author would swap the heartbreak for the old relationship.  Time will tell.