A visit to Rough Trade in April this year yielded numerous lovely records, but none moreso than this one. The good lady was starting to look a little bored as I began flicking through yet another rack of vinyl so, ever alert to the need to prolong the scant opportunities I get to live and breathe real record shops these days, I rashly stated that her mission was to find anything in the entire shop she liked the look of and I’d buy it. Little did I know how happily this challenge would be seized upon and I bought myself another twenty minutes browsing time. Eventually, I was beckoned over to the listening post whereupon I was instructed to give some serious consideration to a couple of tracks on an album I’d never heard of.
That album, was ‘Oh My God, Charlie Darwin’ in its un-remastered, un-rearranged and un-rereleased form, housed in a hand-printed blue card sleeve and sounding tremendous. I pointed out that a couple of the tracks sounded like a constipated Tom Waits arguing with a seal, which while seriously tempting to me is not normally the way the good lady tends to lean when it comes to music, and was met with “Yes, but that first track is amazing.” And so, the album entered my life.
A few days later, we were pootling along a country road, en route to Cambridge, with the CD blaring out on the crappy car speakers and suddenly something clicked. This record was something very special. The delicate vocal of near title track, ‘Charlie Darwin’, is a true hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck moment and the lulling repetition of ‘To Ohio’ is one of my favourite track of this year. The harmonies on this album are perfect and it excels musically also, with an impressive adherence to the ‘less is more’ theory.
The Low Anthem’s 2007 album, ‘What The Crow Brings’, was also close to putting in an appearance in this list. It has less Waits-like flourishes and instead opts to stick mainly to the laid back acoustic, soulful Sunday night strum sound that was perfected on ‘Oh My God, Charlie Darwin’. It’s also worth your attention and can be heard in the usual places or purchased from the band themselves.
The Low Anthem appeared in this summer’s FUTUREMUSIC feature and you can read that piece here.