Label: Full of Joy Records Release date: 03/05/10 Link: Myspace Buy: Amazon Although they make it ridiculously easy for reviewers to fill word counts, Tim and Sam’s Tim and the Sam Band with Tim and Sam have never been the most shocking band in the world. They have, however, spent the past few years as one of the sweetest, summeriest and downright loveliest bands in the country, blending twee-folk with post-rock in to a gorgeous instrumental concoction of strings, glockenspiels, clarinets and acoustic guitars. With that in mind, debut album Life Stream is, barring a massive change of direction towards straightedge hardcore, likely to be the most shocking thing the band ever release. It has – gasp – got vocals on it! The horror! Not on every track, though. The record opens with the horn-fuelled fanfare of ‘Sparks’ which, despite being one of the louder tracks you’ll have heard by Tim and Sam etc. so far, is by no means out of the ordinary. Following this with last year’s single, the predictably summer-evoking ‘Summer Solstice’ only serves to lull listeners familiar with the band in to a false sense of security. ‘Coming Home’, too, starts out in typical Tim and Sam etc. fashion until, 40 seconds in, the vocals kick in, at which point my jaw honestly dropped during the first listen. I just didn’t expect it. Multiple voices come together in a way that suits the band’s style so well, it’s surprising they never thought of it before: what’s a sweeter summer activity than a nice sing-along? Tim and Sam etc. use vocals differently to most bands – they never dominate a song, they are just another instrument. Generally, though, the songs without vocals seem to be louder, almost as though it is in compensation for their new technique, with heavier emphasis on the drums, moving a little further away from their previously ultra-twee sound to an occasionally pounding indie folk racket. Despite the presence or absence of vocals and the ridiculous amount of instruments Tim and Sam etc. have at their disposal, Life Stream never feels disjointed – it flows along perfectly. Instead of rattling along with barely a pause, though, there is plenty of time to stop and reflect on this beautiful record. If only the sun would actually come out, I’d be sitting in a field with all of my friends right now, cranking out Life Stream for all to hear. A perfect summer record. Photobucket