here are another three of my skinny reviews to read carefully multiple times while taking notes:
She and Him - Volume 2 (****)
While adjustments have been made, She & Him’s sophomore release is very much an extension of their first. A choir of merrily chirruping Zooeys and a Shangri-Las-stomp make Don’t Look Back their finest three minutes yet, while a cover of Ridin’ In My Car sees M. Ward duet with Deschanel’s honeyed tones to produce a splendid slice of winsomely romantic country-and-western confectionary. Volume 2 is a sugary concoction that’ll prove too sweet for some taste buds, but criticising She & Him for lacking bite would be like critiquing Elf (to pluck a film from She’s filmography) for not having enough gore; it’s simply the wrong yardstick to gauge by. Their laid-back Americana could be poured in ears all summer long without growing tiresome, their chicly simple formula light and airy enough to make this second helping more than palatable - in fact, a few more servings wouldn’t go amiss either.
Woodpigeon - Die Stadt Muzikanten (****)
Written in Berlin, contemplating the lives of his Austrian/German grandparents with one eye on his former home of Edinburgh, Canadian songwriter Mark Hamilton draws intercontinental inspiration on Die Stadt Muzikanten, a “look back at the things I left unresolved in all the cities I’ve found myself”. It’s an eclectic and wide-ranging endeavour that sprawls over sixteen tracks but successfully keeps the hits outweighing the misses. A low-key saloon piano intro melts into a crackling Mercury Rev-style coda; a collaboration with Edinburgh’s own Eagleowl hints musically and lyrically at Tom Petty; while Empty-Hall Sing-Along has a chorus you’ll think you’ve heard a dozen times before yet can’t wait to hear again. And that’s only the first three tracks; rummaging fans of Elliot Smith and Teenage Fanclub will uncover plenty more delights with every listen. It’s a tad too uneven to guarantee widespread adoration, but it would be well-deserved should it arrive.
Out 19th April
Slaraffenland - We're On Your Side (***)
What Sigur Rós are to Iceland, Efterklang have become to Denmark; the critical darlings through whose prism outsider eyes are prone to viewing – and often judging – everything else that ventures forth from the country. With Slaraffenland the connection is a natural one, the two Danish troupes having fused in the past to produce a mashed-up behemoth by the name of Slaraffenklang. Decoupled from their kooky brethren, Slaraffenland remain enchanting: a quintet of sonic explorers who pack their compositions with multiple complementary refrains that crackle with quiet energy. But it lacks the spark needed to fully ignite these ideas, to kick up the pleasantries into enlivened flames. This is only their second release to feature vocals, and We’re On Your Side might have benefited from continued muteness, their chants often distracting rather than adding to the atmosphere. But this nonetheless remains an impressive reminder that there’s more to Denmark than Parades.