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Brian Christinzio describes himself, perhaps a little too harshly, as 'the guy who blew it'. After releasing two critically-acclaimed psych-pop records (Hide, Run Away in 2005 and Blink of a Nihilist in 2007), he entered his wilderness years, 'putting down the piano' at exactly the point when psychedelia emerged as the template for a number of hugely successful bands. He relocated to Manchester in 2012, where he seems to have undergone something of a creative rebirth; a session for Marc Riley's BBC Radio 6 show in January 2013, which featured new tracks 'Grim Cinema' and 'Thieves in Antigua', suggested that something was stirring for Christinzio. Now comes How To Die In The North, his first album for seven years - but this doesn't sound like a death. Far from it.

This will be a lot of people's first encounter with BC, so let's get one important thing out of the way: he sounds a lot like Brian Wilson. Not just in voice, but in tone, delivery and arrangement too. It's a little disconcerting at first, but go with it: there is treasure in abundance on this record. At the shows to support How To Die In The North, Christinzio and band have played the record, in track order, in full, and that's really the best way to approach it: as a movement, a dramatic construct to be devoured whole. The theatrical influence is undeniable, from the torch-song opening of 'Good Morning Headache' to the deliciously overwrought chorus of closer 'Why Doesn't Anybody Fall In Love'. It is light years ahead of his previous two albums.

Lead single 'Just Because I love You' sounds like it has been around forever, mostly due to a chorus that could have come straight from one of the great soul songbooks of the '70s. The aforementioned 'Good Morning Headache' is simply astonishing: as damn near perfect a showcase for BC's voice and ambition as we're going to get. Coming on like a lost murder ballad from Phantom of the Opera, it is both an intimate duet and a sweeping showtune, with a particularly striking vocal line from Hattie Coombe (whose excellent contributions provide a valuable shade and contrast to the album's overall sound). And 'Thieves in Antigua' is similarly staggering, a kind of tropical-noir-pop suite with a lush string section and an organ breakdown midway through, with Coombe again providing a deadpan reply. I'm also pretty sure I heard a choirboy fruit-seller towards the end. The only other band who have even attempted something this audacious and still called it 'pop' are the Super Furry Animals, who did it with every single song they made.

In fact, SFA are probably the closest musical comparison one can reasonably make throughout How To Die, though I was also reminded of the latter half of Todd Rundgren's A Wizard, A True Star in the album's quieter moments, and of Harry Nilsson throughout. But what makes the record so rewarding, on both an instant and investment level, is that the ambition on show is frequently matched by the quality of melody. Whereas some artists labour the extent of their ambition to the detriment of their expression (I'm looking at you, Alt-J), not one second of How To Die in the North feels over-worked or incongruous. It is a private record of intimate calculations, made universal with the help of a versatile band and a wonderful voice. 2015 might only be a few days old, but we have already been treated to one of the year's most cherishable projects. Manchester's latest son may yet become one of its greatest.

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