The High Llamas - Talahomi Way
Sean O'Hagan's contributions outside of his project The High Llamas have been most recognized in Stereolab. Duh. You all knew that, or at least should be aware of that if you're in a camp that, like myself, cares about/for High Llamas. Insert some historical information about Microdisney and his other briefer projects and huzzah, his career. Let's get back to business now.
While his evocative, lounge inspired arrangements have long made magnificent opuses out of songs by the Groop, his High Llamas releases have always been of a distinct style (or two). Since Beet, Maize & Corn reinvented his wheel as a bucolic chamber pop/retro lounge project, and since Can Cladders improved that sound, The High Llamas have been a bit quiet. Returning some three (or four) years after Cladders with Talahomi Way, O'Hagan now reveals himself as a musician and composer at ease in his territory. No longer apparently in the process of "deprogramming" and decoding himself from his electronic past, Talahomi merges the two to some degree of effectiveness.
Part of the appeal of The High Llamas that cannot be readily identified lies in the ease with which modern cleanliness and studio tweaks are blended with music rooted with two feet in the past. While it can be argued that Microdisney and even Stereolab were and are about forward movement while harkening to a prior period, the Llamas have been joyfully gauzing their tunes with the arrangements that can be found here again. The songs themselves blur the lines between 1960s arrangers/Wrecking Crew charts and Lab circa Sound-Dust and Dots and Loops with similar results to Can Cladders. Where the country driving synesthesia ends, the confusion and frustration begins. 'Take My Hand' marks a high point for the album, a deceptively minimal and brief song that is as catchy and laid back as it is effective in distilling what Talahomi Way should have strived for. More often than not, the songs of this album tend to be forgettable or seemingly by-the-numbers for O'Hagan. Only 'Angel Connector' and 'Fly, Baby, Fly' seem to put him out of his safety zone, and only sparingly so. What remains after that is a wholly enjoyable but somewhat disappointing collection of tunes that sound like leftovers from previous albums and bands.
While the faint specter of Sadier/Gane looms heavy, looking down at O'Hagan and smiling faintly, the High Llamas charge onwards to territory charted. Their previous journeys to the midst of new zones within baronies known had been enthralling at best and gorgeously dull at worst. Talahomi Way is between that, a full length that could have been an EP that, as it stands, is rife with ear candy that makes the mind crave more but (like candy) merely fills with no real satiation too often. As a fan I am let down, as a listener I am struck with fits of ennui, and as a writer I am at a loss for words.
Label: 13 Clouds Records Release date: Out Now Website: Official Website Ever since listening to Broken Social Scene's album You Forgot it in People I have developed an inexplicable affinity with Toronto (I've only ever flown over Canada - once) and a pretty big crush on Leslie Feist. Not only is Howie Beck from that very same city of Ontario but he's managed to get Feist to lend her voice to this, his fourth full length album. Still, I'm sure journalistic integrity will override any fee... [read more]
Yet another descendant of the evergreen breed of Scandinavian singer-songwriters, Norwegian Rebekka Karijord has released for our ears here in the UK The Noble Art of Letting Go. Having been around for over 17 years now, this new record is her third release and represents a different side of her musical abilities; that of melancholic folk music full of pianos and strings recorded in the woody surroundings of Stockholm. Right from album opener, 'Wear It Like A Crown' you are presented with the... [read more]
Magic Central is the latest album to from Michigan's Breathe Owl Breathe and this, their fourth album, represents another offering of the quirky and sensitive folk stories that they're now renowned for. As everything seems to be with Breathe Owl Breathe, it's very soft and delicate, and stands somewhere between Noah and the Whale and the more American sound of singer-songwriters such as Willy Mason. [read more]
Label: Sargent House Release date: 01/07/10 Link: Official Site Buy: Amazon When confronted with any artist from the Sargent House family, the first thoughts are the math rock blasts of Tera Melos or El Grupo Nuevo, the post-rock/metal washes of Russian Circles and Red Sparowes, or the What-The-Fuck awesomeness of bands like Fang Island and bygones. And while all these bands are things I love and part of the reason why Sargent House gets respect, it still remains a ballsy move to take t... [read more]