It's not necessary to listen to much of Leeds trio Sky Larkin's debut record, The Golden Spike, to realise what the band are all about; and not much longer than that is needed to realise what is so appealing about the type of music they play. On that album we became familiar with a group who knew how to squeeze as good as everything out of the three-minute guitar-pop song with eyes cast across the Atlantic and their feet firmly on British soil.
With Kaleide, they pick up where they left off. As ever, Katie Harkin's voice threatens to burst out of its constraints from the start, but stays powerful and steady through each varying passage of play, whether bold or placid. Although on the surface the direction has altered hardly at all, there are hints – the hushed beginning of Landlocked and the slow-driven Anjelica Huston – which show a development in the trio's mastery and use of dynamics. Worry not, songs still burst violently when they need to – like on opener Still Windmills – but the density of those cuts is enhanced by the occasional mellow undercurrent, as the Pacific-coast-kissed Spooktacular proves, following a lull in intensity.
It isn't until the closer, Smarts, that the band hit their peak and arguably fulfil what they're capable of for the first time in two albums. It is, without reservation, a side which we need to see more of. The way Harkin sings gently, caressing the words from her lips over the top of an understated yet threatening guitar and drum backing, gives us a rare chance to take in the lyrical strength of the band, away from the crunching chords and crashing cymbals.
Nothing that features on Kaleide will come as a surprise to those familiar with Sky Larkin's debut, though it will please them. There is not a great shift away from the successful and sturdy formula practiced so far in their career, but that which does suggests greater things – perhaps not in the recognition they'll receive, but definitely in the quality which they'll produce. Sky Larkin, then: getting better whilst still staying the same.
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