I’m sure there’s some sort of point to be made about how the last Super Furries album made number twenty in my Best of 2009 list and yet this is the second successive year where one of the band has occupied third place with a magnificent solo album. Not sure what it is, mind you, other than to prove that there was a staggering amount of talent in a band whose output never dipped below excellent. The sprightly sunshine pop of Gruff Rhys‘ ‘Hotel Shampoo‘ seemed a logical extension of his previous solo work and his role in that band, but who really saw an equally vintage sounding indie pop album emerging from electronic wizard and production maestro Cian Ciaran?
The slightly warped spin on the music of the past that ran through the music of SFA like the word Newport through a stick of rock made for come truly captivating songs over the years. similar sensibilities are at work here. The swooning Sixties sounds of ‘Outside In’ are stunning, not least on ‘Martina Franca‘ which has more than a hint of ‘Heroes & Villains‘ about it. The beautiful acappella of ‘1st Time’ will have you reevaluating which bits you used to think we’re still Gruff were actually Cian. And, while we’re mopping up the logical DNA trail back to one of Wales’ finest ever bands, Dafydd Ieuan and Guto Pryce provide drums and bass.
Despite all of this, ‘Outside In’ deserves to be held up as a celebration of a wonderful talent, both in terms of strikingly affecting lyric writing and soul-hugging melody. ‘Love Thee Dearest’ features the gorgeous lines, “now you’re gone my days grow longer, and yet they fly and pass me by. My dreams are gone of growing older, with you right there by my side.” Heartbreakingly honest stuff which, coupled with his cooing vocals, will leave you a moist eyed wreck. Then there’s ‘3rd Time Lucky‘: a full on piano croon, building gently with the addition of some subtle strings, only to subside to a reverby piano which plays out the melody for the final third of the song in stately, stirring fashion.
Having quietly snuck out into the Welsh music scene, ‘Outside In‘ deserves to be shouted about from the rooftops, to be bought for the special people in your life for Christmas and to be universally acknowledged as one of the most strikingly beautiful albums of the year. My thanks to Spillers for making such a fuss about this one. Now it’s time for the rest of us to join in.