I’ve never had a problem with artists wearing their influences on their sleeves. Provided they’ve come up with something new and exciting, I don’t really care if part of that sound harks back a little to the work of The Beatles or Beach Boys. Those acts don’t have a copyright on ‘ooooh-ooooh’ harmonies and falsetto choruses.
All of which is rather lucky, as ‘Chant Master’ flags up those very influences on a number of occasions. James Milne, the rather more successfully Google-able real name of ‘Lawrence Arabia’, clearly takes his songwriting very seriously and has crafted ten beautiful pieces of music. Melody and harmony come before everything else, and if you like your guitar music to have a perfect mix of jangle and wistful reminiscence then you will find much to love about ‘Chant Darling’.
‘Apple Pie Bed’ has a swooping falsetto chorus that will lay siege to your every waking moment, while ‘Fine Old Friends’ has a ridiculously huge guitar line which is near impossible to air guitar along too satisfactorily, but you’ll try anyway. The Sixites and early-Seventies sounds are fairly prominent, ranging for classic upbeat indie-pop through the more soulful sound of ‘I’ve Smoked Too Much’ and on into the more intricately layered textures of ‘The Beautiful Young Crew’ and yet the whole thing holds together perfectly, coasting along on a wave of irresistible exuberance.
Whether you like your melodies sweet and honed a la Neil Finn or rough around the edges and careering along with rare aplomb in a similar fashion to Jens Lekman or Sondre Lerche, it’s hard to imagine you not being pretty satisfied with the ten little gems on offer her. Bella Union are fast becoming invincible and I’m almost at the stage now where the fact that an album’s coming out on that label means I’ll buy it. Along with ‘Chant Darling’, they’ve already released the gorgeous Laura Veirs record, ‘July Flame’ and Beach House’s genuinely rather special, ‘Teen Dream’, this year, with Midlake’s new one about to enter the world. The Kissaway Trail’s new record, ‘Sleep Mountain’, follows in March and fans of Arcade Fire’s ‘Funeral’ can start getting excited about that one now. It used to be Secretly Canadian who I may as well have had a standing order with, but I can feel my loyalties shifting. Buy all the others I mentioned too, but start with ‘Chant Darling’; it’s a heartening and joyous record, perfectly designed as a lullaby to help you sleep off the rest of this biting winter.
(A free download of the aforementioned ‘The Beautiful Young Crew’ is available from the Bella Union site here)