Some people have been waiting for this album for a quite a while. Not me though, simply because I was only seven when their last album was released. I’ve been waiting about a year or so, since my introduction to people like Beach House and The Horrors, coupled with my long-standing love of Portishead (and my knowledge that there must be something better then Lana Del Rey out there) sent me off looking for more from that corner of music. And there you are, four names that should give you a vague idea of if you’ll like this or not.
The neo-psychedelic indie-rock scene of ‘80s LA gave birth to this collective, fronted by singer Hope Sandoval, described by some as the musical sister of Michael Stipe of REM. Not sure I agree with that entirely, I’d go with Beth Gibbons (of Portishead) if she had grown up in Tennessee, and her voice is just as enthralling matched with the soothing tones of the band on tracks such as ‘Common Burn’. Gentle acoustic guitar strumming, harmonica, vibraphone, occasional guitar wails and the slightest percussion create the perfect lullaby for sleepy lovers on a hot late afternoon. This atmosphere certainly brings a much more folky feel than previous records, and takes the best elements from country too.
Throughout the record there is an incredible sense of space, showing the incredible artistic restraint, or simply the intuition of knowing when to stop adding elements that far too few musicians have mastered.
Aside from the wonders of Sandoval’s voice and the fantastic sparsity, this record really showcases a masterclass of guitar. From serpentine-devil slide, to plain old acoustic strumming, the other major player of the band, David Roback, can make even the simplest bit of guitar into perfect shoegaze folk-rock. Helped along the way by the late Bert Jansch, who trades some Glaswegian strumming on ‘Spoon’. Speaking of guests, Colm Ó Cíosóig of My Bloody Valentine is also along for the ride.
The album starts strong with ‘In the Kingdom’ with subdued yet driving organs and that devilish slide guitar, followed up with ‘California’, that teaser track that came out in July. Both feel perfect for a lazy autumn drive out in the middle of nowhere, with nowhere to go, nothing to see, just to enjoy the simpler points of being. Just being. From here the album gets more and more introspective, before getting to its bluesy resting place towards the end. It’s hard for an album like this to have stand-outs, but ‘Common Burn’, the opening two tracks, and the closing three are my favorites.
The album is released on Monday the 24th, but you can listen to it now on Soundcloud.
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