The Divine Comedy – De La Warr Pavilion – 25th October 2016

I was pretty excited to be going to see The Divine Comedy for the first time. I was really impressed with the new album Foreverland which I recently reviewed for Brightonsfinest and I’d never before seen a show in the iconic 30s theatre at the De La Warr Pavilion, in Bexhill. I wasn’t quite prepared for how blown away I was going to be by the show. I have to say Neil Hannon really is an under-appreciated genius, I’m quite baffled that he’s not considered as much of a national treasure as someone like Pulp frontman, Jarvis Cocker, who seems a reasonable equivalent, having also risen into public consciousness in Britain during the mid-to-late 90s. Perhaps it’s because Neil is from that lesser regarded corner of the UK: Northern Ireland; or perhaps it’s because there’s some peculiar invisible thin-line between the music we treat as serious, or meaningful, and that which we dismiss as simply comedic.

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Laish – Pendulum Swing

Back in 2008, whilst also playing with Sons of Noel and Adrian, Danny Green formed Laish as a vehicle for his own song-writing. Becoming part of the much-feted Willkommen Collective, at the centre of Brighton’s alternative scene, Laish had released a couple of self-produced albums recorded in Green’s Brighton home, gaining him some great support from BBC Radio. This led to an impressive burgeoning independent career, playing shows both with Laish and solo, out in Europe and as far afield as India and Israel. But, from the sounds of things, by 2014 Green had begun to feel himself slipping into something of a creative malaise. I’ve heard many people speak of similar problems when living in a town that, whilst being full of artistic types, sometimes gets called the ‘graveyard of ambition’ by its own residents. For, while Brighton is indeed a creative hub it is also, unmistakeably, a party town, and one that Green found himself slipping into; “I could feel myself becoming fossilised in Brighton, hardening into the grooves of my drinking and laziness so before I became fully set in amber, I dragged myself away and moved to London.”

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Fujiya & Miyagi – EP1 & EP2

Fujiya & Miyagi are a bit of a cult Brighton success, having formed here around university friends at the very beginning of the 00s. They rose to prominence from around 2003 onward as releases started getting positive coverage in the music press and their songs started getting picked up for advertising and synchronised to TV shows. 'Collarbone' appeared in a couple of adverts and now, a decade on, it has over four million streams on Spotify. It's a method of exposure that has become more and more common in a shifting music industry – where once selling-out to advertisers was seen as a cred-killer it's now a legitimate, quite common way for independent bands to establish themselves at the same time as pocketing some much needed seed money. I remember seeing them live in the now defunct Pressure Point (in fact it may still have been called The Richmond at this point) when I was at college, thinking they were extremely cool with their cover of Talking Heads 'Psycho Killer' performed in their signature style: heavily kraut-influenced electro, with David Best's whispered vocals – the sound of being let in on a well-kept secret.

Their return in 2016, a couple of years on from the Artificial Sweeteners album, which saw one of AK/DK's dual drummers Ed Chivers join the ranks, seems perfectly suited to their aesthetics. They've decided to spread the releasing and production of an album’s worth of material across a year-and-a-half via three EPs, released in modular vinyl packaging. Once all three are available, the sleeves will join together, like a set of transformer toys from the 80s, into one triple disc set. It seems to me the perfect format for a band who channel the sound of the late 70s/early 80s electronic music, which tried its best to sound like a vision of the future. So there's the sound of tomorrow as imagined yesterday: reconditioned analogue synths beefed up with modern digital recording techniques. There's always been a hint of the absurd about their work – dressing quite unusual, often mundane, subject matter in ice-cool synths, kraut beats and precise guitar lines.

EP2 just came out and it contains some really strong material. ‘Outstripping (The Speed Of Light)’ is a great song, and obvious single, but in a sense it’s too obvious – singing about the speed of light, days bleeding into night – it’s all a bit too genuinely cool, although this is somewhat rescued by the effortlessness of the piece. metronomic drums, bass and guitars with floating synth pads and wailing heavily effected guitar notes in the choruses. ‘R.S.I.’ is more like it, in my opinion. While the dark moody-synths wouldn’t sound out of place on a Ninja Tune-influenced electronic Radiohead track and the wob-wob-wob auto-bass wouldn’t sound out of place on a Georgio Moroder cut, those vocals are unmistakably Fujiya & Miyagi – who else would treat the subject of repetitive strain injury with such reverence? Musically, when the track kicks back in towards the end for another couple of minutes at double the heaviness, it’s sublime.

‘Swoon’ is a vibey, spaced-out piece with a lyric that’s a little more nonesensical; “Does your whole body swoon / to uninterupted views / of electric blue / drained swimming pools”, seemingly putting an emphasis on the sound and texture of the words. ‘Extended Dance Mix’ is probably my favourite piece of the whole collection so far, again it’s seeped in Moroder, but it’s the spoken-word lyric and resigned delivery that really nail this one to the wall. The discussion is about Fujiya & Miyagi’s story up to now, comparing the last ten years of their music career to the twitching of a dead frogs leg, when you apply electric current to it. He talks about the band’s faltered career trajectory, “too electronic to be rock and too rock to be electronic it’s weird/ if you drew a Venn diagram you’d find an overlap between those too spheres”. The confessional approach, openly discussing the worry that as one gets older you become less physically capable and, in terms of the band, potentially further and further from relevance, is really quite refreshing. And what’s surprising – and I know I’m overusing this – is how cool it all sounds! Never has the anxiety of a burgeoning midlife crisis been so danceable, except, perhaps, Phil Daniels verses on Blur’s ‘Parklife’, although that was a cooked up fantasy and this is self-analysis.

EP1 was released back in May, when we had our heads firmly wrapped in Great Escape territory. It begins with ‘Serotonin Rushes’, which sounds like there’s a hint of Lipps Inc’s ‘Funky Town’ embedded in the mix, although that may just give you a sense of the sound of the record. “You take the minuses and leave me with the pluses/ my sweet serotonin rushes”, whispers Best, perhaps an ode to the chemical highs that have kept people up and dancing in dingy clubs for many years. There’s a fantastic instrumental passage in this one, with some wild sounding guitar – or synth, it’s actually quite hard to tell the difference! ‘To The Last Beat Of My Heart’ is more of a mellow, moody number, it’s got some pretty saccharine lyrics about loving someone endlessly, but delivered in such a way, with this sombre backing track, it sounds almost sinister: like a threat.

‘Freudian Slips’ steps things up again, about Best’s assertion that psychoanalysis does more damage than it fixes: “you got to get over it”, he sings, which seems fair enough until he starts developing this to the point of absurdity again: get over it, or under it, or through it, or move it! It’s hard to tell at times, throughout the two EPs, if you’re listening to a band that wants to be taken seriously or would like you to laugh, but that’s not a problem for me. I find myself as likely to be reminded of Neu or Can as I am of Flight of the Conchords – but I come away thinking Fujiya & Miyagi would like you to dance primarily, besides which I suspect they’d hate to have to take anything too seriously. In a world where the electronic music scene is increasingly po-faced it’s a welcome relief to find Fujiya & Miyagi are still producing music of such high quality. Still maybe it’s just that my interests intersect perfectly with the overlap between the rock and electronic spheres of their imaginary Venn diagram! I’ll be looking forward to spring next year for chapter three in this modular record release: the future is here and it’s yesterday.
Adam Kidd

Website: fujiya-miyagi.co.uk
Facebook: facebook.com/FujiyaMiyagi
Twitter: twitter.com/fujiyaandmiyagi

 

 

Pretenders – Alone

When I first heard the heavy-riffing, 60s-girl-group-checking, and yet ultra-modern sounding 'Holy Commotion', the teaser single for the new Pretenders album, my head filled with questions. Most principally: where has Chrissie Hynde been? How does she still sound this good? And who are these new Pretenders? Pretenders’ latest return was announced in early September, most of the world hearing about it through Stevie Knicks, as she announced the band would be supporting her during the last three months of the year on her mega world arena tour.

It has been eight years since the last Pretenders album, Break Up The Concrete. Released 30 years after the band were formed in 1978, you could be forgiven for thinking it would be their last album, and, in fact, it flew under my radar completely. I certainly wouldn't have expected them to return now with a record that sounds so fresh and, at times, exciting. But then I'd probably be falling into a trap many before me have succumb to: underestimating Chrissie Hynde. She has one of the most enduring, most instantly recognisable voices in rock history and writes razor sharp lyrics to boot.

Opening and title track 'Alone' is a case in point. Chrissie's tone is conversational, and yet cool as fuck throughout, as she sing-speaks about going to a graveyard to be on her own, smoke and practise her autograph. She seems to somehow be sending herself up with this irreverent wit, whilst simultaneously being a perfect representation of who we expect her to be. All the greatest rock stars are, at least at some point in their careers, caricatures, and Chrissie Hynde is one who has endured, everything you expect her to be remains intact and vibrant. It’s so easy to forget she’s 65 years old. ‘Alone’ is driven along by gritty guitars and a boogie woogie piano groove in the verses that makes it sound like Warren Zevon is about to howl, “Awooo” and this is actually going to be ‘Werewolves Of London’. Hynde casually closes the song in style.

I like being on my own
What are you gonna do about it, huh?
Absolutely fuck all”
.

Another principle factor in this reformation has to be producer and Black Keys man Dan Aeurbach, who actually shares a hometown with Hynde in Akron, Ohio; although you’d be forgiven for thinking Chrissie came out of New York City by way of London. The question of ‘who’ the Pretender are now is answered in the official press release for the album in an enigmatically reassuring style, in stating that Chrissie is backed on the album by “real people playing real instruments”. That’s the sound we hear throughout the record, some great players stomping their way back and forth through the great American songbook in a way that sounds simultaneously up-to-date and like some great forgotten moment between the 60s and 70s. ‘Roadie Man’, for example, sounds like it could be The Band with some extra layers of guitar. Apparently this is a song Chrissie had played to Elvis Costello years ago, which he’d pushed for inclusion on the album. As resistant to hyperbole as ever Chrissie recently denied this on the BBC One Show, saying she’d have to tell Elvis she’d finally recorded It. On the same show she also sweeps away any queries about who the Pretenders are, it’s just a name. As the only consistent member of the band it’s ultimately the sound and attitude of a record that decides if that collection of songs is going to be a Pretenders album, and this is most certainly a Pretenders album.

Chrissie Hynde’s song-writing sounds at the top of its game to me, backed by a great set of session players that Aeurbach has at his disposal, it’s live and lively throughout. Although, while Alone begins with all guns blazing, it gently dips its way towards the reflective and melancholic as it progresses through the track-list exploring the theme of the title. The proud defiance of ‘Alone’ gives way to waiting for love (‘Gotta Wait’, ‘One More Day’), and tracks that accept it’s not going to work out (‘Never Be Together’, ‘The Man You Are’). But Hynde never loses her confidence or independence, even when you hit the lows of a track like ‘I Hate Myself’, she uses confessional cowboy-blues to list her mistakes and regrets without ever surrendering her defiance. The album closes with ‘Death Is Not Enough’ a solemn ballad, drenched in mournful pedal steel and dripping in romance – love enduring after a death that, presumably, leaves Hynde alone. But Hynde staunchly avoids drifting into cliché, even with the rock-history lesson on display throughout the album; she manages to keep things interesting and clever with unique passages popping up amongst the comforting familiarity of the overall sound.

It’s interesting that they’ve chosen to stick ‘Holy Commotion’ on the end of the album, listed as a ‘bonus track’ (there’s a near thirty seconds of silence at the end of ‘Death Is Not Enough’ to enforce the seperation). With its arpeggio synth, big production percussion, and hooky backing vocals it’s arguably the most modern sounding track on the album, definitely souped up for maximum impact, but in so doing it sticks out like a sore thumb (tellingly the version they played on Jools Holland the other day was far faster and more rock oriented than the recording). Thematically as well it strays a little from the album – it’s about love and connection in spite, or in antidote to the “rape, torture and mutilation” of the modern world. It’s optimistic, it’s hopeful and it’s an earworm par-excellence with the potential to become one of Hynde’s most memorable singles, right up there with her ‘94 hit, ‘I’ll Stand By You’. To set it aside, rather than attempt to build the album around it, says a lot to me. For all this surprise blooming of energy, so late in her career, Hynde is still of her-era: preferring authenticity and a bold artistic statement to a dogged pursuit of commercial success. That’s not to say this album is anti-commercial by any means. In fact we’ve seen time and time again that those who avoid the big tell-all PR campaigns and enormous lead-times of typical pop promotions can end up getting even more love from the public, for reminding us that we like a little mystery in our lives. This album is a real grower, classic and clever, in defiance of her age it feels like it could well be the beginning of a new era of Pretenders – I, for one, certainly hope so!
Adam Kidd

website: thepretenders.com
facebook: facebook.com/pretenders
twitter: twitter.com/ThePretendersHQ
 

 


 

 

 

Kings of Leon – WALLS

WALLS is the seventh studio album by Kings of Leon and they’ve decided to try and step outside of their comfort zones this time. For the first time since 2003’s What I Saw EP, the band have parted ways with producer Angelo Petraglia in favour of Markus Dravs, who is best known for his work with Coldplay, Florence & The Machine and Arcade Fire. It’s been thirteen years since their first release and perhaps that’s unlucky for some. The band certainly seem pretty determined to shake things up and make this album have some impact, or at least more impact than their last. The popular narrative is that their last two albums, Mechanical Bull and Come Around Sundown, did not achieve the critical acclaim or commercial peak that they soared to with their fourth album Only By The Night. It’s true there isn’t a story of uninterrupted global success and super-stardom continuing the unprecedented trajectory of their first four albums, but this is probably as much to do with personal issues as the strength of the follow-up releases. While extensively touring 2010’s Come Around Sundown lead-singer Caleb Followill lost it, appearing on stage intoxicated he abandoned a concert in Texas abruptly. Later that year the band were forced to go on hiatus, presumably while Caleb went through some sort of rehab programme. His brother, drummer Nathan Followill, was pretty confident in correctly predicting the hiatus would last no more than six months, showing that old family discipline has remained intact no matter how far the Followill brothers and cousin stray from their roots.

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Bloom – Interview – 2016

Bloom are effectively a new version of an old Brighton band called The Beautiful Word. They decided to retire the old name a couple of years ago in order to reflect a major change in their sound and approach. This has all recently come to fruition as the revitalised group have just self-released their début album What Is Life? supported by a successful Kickstarter campaign and launched with a sold-out show at The Latest Music Bar. With a little bit of respite before they head off on a UK tour now seemed a great time to pose a few questions to front-women Emily and Megan to find out why they decided to change things up, what's new and what's next.

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Bloom – Latest Music Bar – 7th October 2016

I had been hearing great things about Fukushima Dolphin, so I made sure I was early to the Bloom launch to catch their set, and I was not disappointed. I'd seen a few low-quality YouTube videos of the band playing live, but the up-front personal experience has to be experienced. Frontman Josh Butler cuts quite an enigmatic figure, wearing hillbilly dungarees and a straw hat that covers most of his face. He plays an acoustic guitar through a wide variety of effects pedals that cook up quite a racket, and it's this, alongside his gravelly vocal, that forms the centre-piece of the band's sound. They are quite a rag-tag mob, you wouldn't necessarily guess all six of them belong to the same band when you see them scattered around the venue before the show kicks off, but they certainly make a mighty sound when they get started. It's melodic, well-orchestrated psychedelic rock and they're ones to watch.

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Bloom – What Is Life?

Bloom have an interesting origin of sorts. Although this is their début album they’re not exactly a new band. Rather like New Order became Joy Division, Bloom are the Phoenix that has risen from the flames of an old Brighton group called The Beautiful Word, who had been kicking around making folky pop on these shores for quite some time. Thankfully the tragedy that prompted this reboot is not quite so solemn as the suicide of Ian Curtis which made the remaining members of Joy Division decide to start over with a new identity. Still, I can imagine it must have been quite horrifying for Megan, one of the bands dual harmony singers, when she developed nodules on her throat and had to stop singing altogether for a while. So it was an enforced break from music that forced the band to take pause and incubate this new version of themselves. What’s apparent from the get-go on this collection of ten songs is the level of focus and clarity to the bands renewed musical vision.

I had seen their previous incarnation live a number of times on the local gig circuit. Although there were lots of aspects to the sound that I could get behind I always felt like there was a slight mismatch between the two singing girls up front, best friends Emily and Megan, with their folky art-pop sensibilities, and the trio of guys at the back, who would bring a level of technical skill that at times felt unnecessary for the material. Those sorts of complaints are completely absent from What Is Life?, which comes across as the work of a sophisticated, cohesive band with a clearly defined sound. They’ve shed a lot of the folky finger-picking stuff in favour of a more slick synth pop flavour. There were times I might have found their earlier work a little too soppy and saccharine, but while the melodies are as sunny and the harmonies as frequent, there is a melancholy that hangs over these songs. There’s a sense of longing, reaching, hoping and emerging.

The album begins with ‘Such A Shame’ establishing the sound of the record, a solid, funky, super-tight groove held down by the rhythm section while clean, jangly delayed guitars and shiny synths sparkle on top. The tension of the verses gives way to a killer, hooky chorus. It’s an approach the band use throughout the album – managing to find catchy melodies to crown their tracks time and time again. ‘Shout’ was the first song to be made public as a teaser for the album, it could almost be referring directly to Megan’s struggle with losing her voice, or rather the joy of rediscovering it: “never knew that I could shout before always bite my tongue/now I know what all the fuss is for, show me how it’s done“. There’s a feeling of triumph over adversity, but it’s marked by the struggle to get there, as the intimate stripped back verses give way to driving choruses by way of a distorted synth bass tone.

‘Not Enough’ has a classy broken groove to the verses, with clever guitar harmonies and a housey groove. ‘Try’ takes things down a notch, leading with a picked guitar and off-beat ambience before striking up a slow-burning groove that builds with counter-point vocal melodies and laid-back guitars. ‘Nothing’ is a real strong track, the synth-organ playing hooks that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Vampire Weekend album. The verse melody has real ear-worm potential, almost more so than the chorus, and it gets plenty of room to shine. Particularly in the extended break-down for the second verse, one of many places where the bands skill for vocal arrangement shines through, giving this one a bit of School Of Seven Bells feel.

Probably the oddest groove on the record comes with ‘Snow’, which sounds like Japanese computer game music in places, its verses doing odd things with all the black notes on the keyboard. The chorus is a build-up that returns us to the unusual verse groove, which stretches and adds more tension when it repeats. ‘Something’ is another hook-fest, vocal melodies and infectious synth licks are all over the shop – perhaps it’s a sister track to ‘Nothing’. This one could easily be a single, possessing a sort of epic-pop chorus that rises pleasingly out of the soft pop verses. They take this one for bit of a ride too, taking the opportunity to play it out with a largely instrumental outro, marked by the occasional vocal line, drenched in faraway reverb.

‘Tiny’ is a bit of a ballad, and a rare occasion where the lead vocal is largely left to a single voice – appropriate when the lyrics is about feeling small and forgotten. This is probably the closest they get on the album to a folk number, melodically and with the prominence of the acoustic guitar. It builds beautifully though, with a stand-out bit of vocal performance in the bridge, and some bass guitar that sounds like it could be influenced by the amazing playing on Paul Simon’s Graceland. There’s something about the crescendo that’s a bit Ben Folds 5 too, but only in as much as it’s a well crafted bit of song-writing.

As the album draws to a close we get ‘Focus’, which has a fantastic verse full of slightly unusual chord choices and fancy backing vocal hooks. It’s another chorus that works as a building section, which is quite a good technique that works very well for them, building tension before releasing it all in the instrumental sections that follow. The album ends on it’s most epic track, ‘Letting Go’ is mellow and melancholic, stretching out to 5 minutes it’s unusually long on an album that breezes by with a 36 minute total running time. The funky chorus on this one is a real treat, and there’s a synth hook that’s a nod to some early retro synth pioneer that I shamefully can’t pinpoint, but it’s a really clever use of a classic motif, not that they needed it to make this track a real gem and a great opportunity for their able drummer to stretch his limbs, rolling effortlessly around the kit throughout the track, without sounding like he’s over egging the pudding.

The band talk about their work taking a DIY approach with this album, raising the funds to produce it through kick-starter, working on near zero budget music videos, calling in favours from an extended family of old contacts established in The Beautiful Word days to organise a UK tour on a shoe-string. In that context you might expect the music to be a little rough-and-ready, a little bit of charming shonkiness would not be a surprise, but that’s not what we get. Instead everything has been painstakingly arranged and performed, the production kept to a high standard throughout. So What Is Life? is a fine collection of songs from a group who have re-emerged stronger with a clearer sense of self. Here’s hoping they get the accolades they deserve for all this hard work, there’s so much potential on this record I’d love to see their own brand of cosmic pop ascending to the stratosphere where it belongs.
Adam Kidd

Website: wecanbloom.com
Twitter: twitter.com/wecanbloom
Facebook: facebook.com/wecanbloom

Fable – The Prince Albert – 23rd September 2016

By the time I got to The Albert on Friday night Fable and her band were already in full-swing and the darkened room was full to bursting with fans eager to catch up with the latest developments from this exciting new emerging artist. Fable arrived on the Brighton scene a couple of years ago as a fully-stylised vision; a clearly defined aesthetic fronted by an enigmatic performer has epitomised her appearances and releases so far. Tonight is no different on that front, if anything she's ramping things up a gear – the band are more on board, wearing dark outfits, the bassist with an over-sized medieval-looking hood, an Ouroboros symbol (the mythical serpent that consumes its own tail) popping up here and there. Fable is ever more provocative, scantily clad in a see-through fishnet top, with crosses of black tape covering her nipples. Perhaps it should come across as more overtly sexual, but I don't even notice this feature at first as I am drawn in by the flourishing hands of her performance, and those dark-lined intense eyes. She fixes the crowd with powerful stares, as if she is here to judge us, and not the other way round.

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Devendra Banhart – Ape in Pink Marble

Banhart's ninth record, his first in three years, is a study in restraint – there's an overriding mellowness, minimalism, and often melancholy that holds the album together. In fact, in many ways, this could be considered as his most cohesive record to date, although people who are hoping “most cohesive” means twelve new equivalents to 'I Feel Just Like A Child' might be disappointed. Production-wise the album harks back to his early lo-fi work, much of the instrumentation saturated in the warming warble of what sounds like tape-phase and, apart from on a couple of key tracks, songs have been gently adorned – there are few tracks with a full drumbeat-based backing track, for example. The sounds that fill the record, though, resemble old-fashioned Casio synth sounds, which break-up and decay in satisfying analogue ways – it’s lush, loungey and exotic.

Devendra Banhart was born in Houston, Texas, before moving to his mother’s native Venezuela aged two, where he was raised before returning to the United States, this time to California, as a teenager. His background moving through those cultures clearly influenced his future direction in becoming the atypical American singer-songwriter we know today. His music is often enriched by rhythms from Latin America and beyond and here on Ape in Pink Marble we go quite far beyond; with the odd bed-fellows of Japanese koto playing, 70s elevator music synths and retro Italian disco. Recorded in Los Angeles with producers and long-time collaboraters Noah Georgeson and Josiah Steinbrick, the laid-back vibe and endless sunny days of California have certainly seeped in, creating the perfect setting for Banhart's smooth vocals. A soft, comforting, warm blanket of a voice that often trills off at the end of a phrase with a satisfying warble of vibrato. It's as if Banhart has a Leslie speaker built into his chest that he can flip on at will, it never sounds forced or laboured – the most natural thing in the world, which most singers would find a real challenge to pull off.

The Ape in Pink Marble title can be interpreted as a primitive, or unrefined man, encased in the pink marble of a luxurious hotel lobby. Each of the songs telling different stories that pass through this setting, that gets a mention in several lyrics. I often find myself imagining the hotel itself, as the centre-piece to a Wes Anderson film. There's that timeless, yet distinctly retro feeling to the whole album that creates a sense of place, and that's what I mean when I say it’s his most-cohesive work. There's this sense of tying the whole record to a time and a place; albeit a fictional, or metaphorical space and a dreamy sense of time, even though that is just some nostalgia-soaked non-specific time in the past.

The opening song, and the first to be teased from the album 'Middle Names', is a key track, setting the mood that the album begins and ends with. Banhart's middle name is famously 'Obi', named for the Jedi Knight (kooky parents!) and he sees middle names as being these secret parts of ourselves, that we only reveal to people we know well. Mostly just guitar and voice, this sparse piece is full of longing. Banhart has said it is about a friend of his, a fellow musician who passed away. Asa Ferry, from the band Hearts and Coronets, was famous for disappearing on long benders and this song is apparently quite literally remembering times (including the one rare day when rain fell in LA) when Devendra would walk around LA and wonder if he might bump into his old friend and if he would still recognise him now.

The album ramps up in the middle with two songs that have more of a backbeat than anywhere else on the album, 'Fancy Man' and 'Fig in Leather' manage to move in a different way to the rest of the record without feeling too jarring. They maintain the general aesthetic, while telling these playful, but potentially dark stories of seduction and faded glory. ‘Theme for a Taiwanese Woman in Lime Green’ begins the climb down from these two up-beat centre-pieces. It’s pure lounge, exotica, floating along with licks of soft jazz and Banhart’s vocal in the chorus sounding like it’s actually run through the tremolo built into a Fender Rhodes, it raises out from the bedroom lo-fidelity when glorious strings rise up in the middle, beautifully recorded and drenched in expensive reverb.

The slight Casio keyboard bossa nova groove, and impressionistic soft keys of ‘Saturday Night’ would make it an odd choice for the lead single and music video contender if it didn’t so perfectly capture the overall mood of the album. The video, with Banhart holding a cute babie, shot in a semi-abstract space of club lights and their lens flares is politely disarming. The lyrics point us toward some of the disquiet bubbling beneath the relaxing vibe of the album, “please don’t love me because you’re through hating you”. This isn’t a Saturday night for partying, it’s one to stay in to brood, contemplate and mourn the ongoing loss of a lover who is still hanging around but not quite coming back. Banhart is making a complex point about loving and longing here, it isn’t enough for his lover to return because she’s over her issues, implying that self-forgiveness and a return to loving are quite distinct phases not to be mistaken for one another. Perhaps this is the source of the melancholy that pervades the album, Banhart is the ape in the lobby, trapped in a melancholy limbo populated by exotic characters waiting for the world to start moving again.

Adam Kidd

Website: www.devendrabanhart.com/
Facebook: facebook.com/DevendraBanhart/
Twitter: twitter.com/DevendraBanhart