Monday, April 28, 2008

Building Castles In the Shifting Sands

The new album from the Leaves is simply unbelievable! And it continues the tradition of interesting artwork with a brilliant art nouveau sleeve. In fact, it's as good as their first album which is already a classic in my book. Treats and Treasures had some real stand-outs in "When I Close My Eyes", "The Summer's Gone" etc, and although nothing on Long Lost Friend reaches quite the same heights, the lows are non-existent. On the whole, the music is a notch softer and leans more towards the jangle end of the folk rock spectrum, where the debut had a bit more of a garage punch and some psychedelic flourishes. I'm not kidding when I say this is the best janglepop since East Village and has as justified a claim to the Best Album of the Year So Far title as The Airfields' cd. There's more Rickenbacker and acoustic 12-string in these 36 minutes than what is officially healthy!

The record leads off with "Lighthouse" (that you can hear on MySpace) - an instant classic and one of David Beckey's finest compositions. Guitarist Jon Hunt (almost John Hunt's namesake!) has contributed the next one called "Summer Sunshine Girl" which made for a perfect soundtrack to a cuppa coffee in a sun-drenched backyard earlier today. Reading the songwriting credits is actually rather interesting as they're just vague enough. E.g. the backwards five-second intro "Emo Texan" is credited to Yekceb (read it backwards!). If you didn't know already, you'll learn that "In the Morning" is a Bee Gees cover. Given a beautiful treatment here with harmonies and banjo-style Rickenbacker picking. And I tracked down "You Can't Be Serious" as a 1966 b-side by British pop-sike group The Mirage. That's the one song that sticks out in the set, because of its raucous vocal - I'm guessing it's Keith Patterson singing... just because he plays such a mean-looking Burns Bison bass! "Wintertyme Joy" is the only psychedelic song this time around and can also be found on MySpace, along with the laidback title-track. "Make My Move" doesn't exactly suffer from having almost the same melody as "The Rollercoaster Ride" by Belle & Sebastian, and "Back to Me" has a very Felty guitar line (including a solo that even Lawrence ought to dig). The closing track "Bonfire In the Sand" connects with the heathen theme of the artwork, thanks to some freaky vocals and chuckling goblins.

That's almost all the tracks and they all deserve to be mentioned, honestly, because even the ones I left out are brilliant. More brilliant American pop is on If Things Were Perfect, in the shape of a rare Honeybunch flexi track.

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