|THE GREEK THEATRE - LOST AT SEA|
DOWLING POOLE - BLEAK STRATEGIES
(LPs from www.sugarbushrecords.com)
Rapidly becoming one of my favourite labels, Sugarbush return with another brace of albums that share a timeless quality whilst sounding very different from each other.
Emerging from a mellow mist of sixties inspired melody and cool The Greek Theatre ooze that get back to the country vibe, sweet melodies and a relaxed attitude merging together to create a musical template that is relaxed and perfectly balanced, some fine playing lifting the songs into that zone occupied by The Byrds and their musical offshoots, the result a wholly satisfying listen.
Opening with a delightful country shuffle and pedal steel, “Even You Will Find A Way Home My Son” is a great opener, easy listening, West Coast psych that floats around you, the pattern continued on both “August Streets” and the short and haunting “You and Your Brother”, the latter reminding me of Simon and Garfunkel on mushrooms and leading us nicely into the album's undoubted highlight the magnificent “Frozen Highway”, the tune maintaining that mellow vibe but adding some sublime guitar/organ playing, inventiveness by the bucket-full and a sweet warmth that really works. Ending side one, “Was It A Dream” is a nostalgic delight, with some of the most relaxed sax playing I have ever heard, the tune having a really light jazz sheen that adds to its whimsical nature.
Over on the other side there is a Beach Boys feel to “Overprotection doesn't Work”, whilst “Mountains Meet Ocean Sound” is just a classic pop song that gets you grooving. After more loveliness from “Close In My Arms”, the band slow thing down even further on “Hold On” a tune so languid that you will want to curl up in a sunny meadow and listen, the addition of a Clarinet adding to the sleepiness, the song drifting the listener into the ideal state for “Sail Away”, a plucked guitar taking up the mood and running with it the piece slowly spinning into a mellow cloud of bliss that is both magnificent and over too quickly, the sound of the sea leading us into “Stupid Constapleton” the final track which remind me of Jefferson Airplane and is also too short. Recorded at home by Swedish duo Steve Froberg and Fredrik Persson, this collection has a rich sound and is packed with melodic sweetness that makes the music very listen-able and difficult to age, as winter approaches this will keep the memories of summer alive.
Sharing a love of melody, the latest album from Dowling Poole is a heady mixture of classic XTC, the more melodic side of Super Furry Animals and The Beatles at their most harmonic, the whole album sounding very English to these ears. Opening track “The Sun Is Mine” showcases all these influences as well as some quality songwriting, the song inventive and laden with hooks. With a more pop-psych sheen, “A Kiss On The Ocean” is just a great song that is beautifully produced and very lovely, attributes that can also be found on the excellent “Saving It All For A Saturday” although the lyrics are much darker. To close side one “Paper, Scissors, Stone” is a more relaxed tune with great harmonies and plenty of creative twists.
Flip the record over and side two contains another five tunes filled with those creative twists with “Empires, Buildings and Acquisitions” opening things and highlighting musicians right on top of their game. With an almost Eno-esque ambience “Twilight Subplot” is another fine tune with magnificent vocals and a drifting atmosphere and droning strings, whilst “Getting A Licence” will definitely make you think of The Beatles, the whole album rounded off with “Clean”, a beautiful song that has some great guitar running through it.
If you love melody, harmony and classic songwriting then these two albums come highly recommended. (Simon Lewis)