Some records don’t transfer well between seasons but, as I sit looking out at three foot long icicles and a seemingly permanent snow covering, ‘Sky At Night’ still sounds as imperious as it did upon arrival at a balmy holiday cottage in July. The best melancholic albums have the capacity to mould themselves to whatever mood the listener happens to be in. Happy? No problem, admire the swooning majesty of the arrangements. Sad? Wallow aplenty in those aching vocals. When I first wrote about this record for ‘A Week With…’, I was merrily lavishing praise all over these songs and, it would seem, it was all entirely deserved. ‘To The Brink’ remains one of the most perfectly realised tracks of 2010 – majestically sung, beautifully textured and produced with due care and diligence. Plus, “do you fancy a drink? I know a place called the brink” remains a splendid way to start a song.
An entirely just Mercury nominee, ‘Sky At Night’ is I Am Kloot’s masterwork to date, and I add that ‘to date’ quite intentionally. One of the better kept secrets of the northern indie scene, quietly selling in small numbers to people with discerning ears, the band have a catalogue well worth exploring. Debut ‘Natural History’ might well be the most sensible port of call for those looking for their next fix, produced as it was by Guy Garvey, co-producer of this latest outing along with fellow Elbow sort Craig Potter. Be prepared for a slight step down in sonic splendour, mind you. Kloot have come a long way and this is never more obvious than on the grandiose ‘Lately’, which you can obtain for nowt by going here. A deliciously epic wall of strings is deployed sparingly but to great effect, while band frontman John Bramwell’s impassioned rasp rises to the occasion. If you like your Hawley, Villagers or, of course, Elbow, then I fail to see how you could be anything other deeply moved by this.
Chuck in the masterful singles – ‘Northern Skies’ and the re-born ‘Proof’ – and you should already have enough reasons to be in possession. But should you still need convincing, not that I can really understand how the final thirty seconds or so of ‘Proof’ wouldn’t melt your icy bastard heart if so, then ‘It’s Just The Night’ should do it. I previously described it as “a ludicrously indulgent cross between Richard Hawley, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan” and I’m not sure I can put it any better some five months later. Luscious but not saccharine, elegant but not too earnest and resonant in a way which makes me feel like its passing through me, this is the quiet calling card of a terrific talent.
And I still haven’t mentioned Kloot’s ‘One Day Like This’, ‘Radiation’, which is as close to gratuitously big as the album gets. It’s still lovely, mind you. For whatever reason, there aren’t all that many conventional guitar bands in this year’s list. It would seem that a sense of fatigue kicked in this year, with the phrase ‘landfill indie’ becoming almost as ubiquitous as the music it was claiming to describe, but when it was really very good indeed, it stood out from the crowd. Such was the case with ‘Sky At Night’, and here’s hoping the band’s renewed commercial standing can endure.