Blow me down with a feather. By all rights, I'm Leaving - the sophomore long-player from London trio Is Tropical - ought to be awful. Outside of the sublime "South Pacific", their debut was a bit of a nu-rave banger and, to be honest, it was difficult to see the band making it to a second LP with this template in tow. Clearly a lot has changed in two years however, for I'm Leaving is far better than expected, nu-rave mercifully abandoned in favour of forlorn New Wave and electro-punk.
Known for its love of cutesy electronic pop, French it-label Kitsuné was nevertheless a suitable home for Dominic Apa, Gary Barber and Simon Milner in 2011 and parts (the unremarkable ones, it must be said) of I'm Leaving remain easy to reconcile with their profile. An on-going musical power struggle may yet force the two apart however. It's only the sweet vocal in "Lillith", for example, that prevents the track's harsh guitar angles from dominating the mix and that same post-punk crunch is only slightly blurred by wistful synth on "Lover's Cave".
It's an interesting development definitely worth pursuing too if the likes of "Cry" are the result, its brash urgency broken up by emotional cut-aways and bittersweet electronic dither. The single, "Dancing Anymore", is good fun as well, while its ridiculously NSFW video is to be seen to be believed. Though the track's tinny drum programmes are undoubtedly nicked from New Order, it's ideal downbeat indie-disco fodder to shake your fringe to in between cuts by, say, The Bravery and Bloc Party. As an aside, it also features a touching duet by Barber and his girlfriend, the remainder of the LP's unobtrusive female vocals being supplied by Ellie Fletcher of Crystal Fighters.
Unquestionably saving the best `til last, the emotionally battered "Yellow Teeth" gives real substance to a non-descript closing order, its seven minutes of intelligent, confident indie culminating as an arms-wide statement of grandeur - one significant enough to make you rethink your whole attitude to the band. It's quite simple. With I'm Leaving, Is Tropical have delivered the year's biggest surprise to date. Well played.