DISC 11. TRAVELLING SHOES2. LICK YOUR WOUNDS3. THE LISTENING TIMES4. BICYCLE RIDING5. THE 036. EARLY KNEECAPPINGS7. THE BISEXUAL8. DESSAU RAG9. LEGENDS
Following up an album as infectiously appealing as Chant Darling must have given James Milne a few sleepless nights. The New Zealander’s second record, released in the UK in 2010, had enough hooks to make a colossal squid squirm with envy.
The Sparrow, Milne’s third set as Lawrence Arabia, partly avoids the obvious in favour of a more considered, instrumentally rich approach to songwriting.
Aside from the swooning violins and 50s-style arpeggios of Travelling Shoes, there’s nothing as immediately accessible as Apple Pie Bed. But The Sparrow is still a lovely, lushly arranged album, which finds the artist maturing artfully.
Milne is apparently drawing inspiration from the work of Scott Walker in the late 60s – by then, Walker had moved on from his pop roots towards a more esoteric creative headspace. But, thankfully, there’s no gratuitous weirdness.
Milne still sounds a little like John Lennon in places, and revels in the odd panted falsetto in others. And he can still write things as funny as The Bisexual: “Why don’t you come over / So you can hear me / You’re a snake in the grass / I don’t want you near me.”
This is preceded by the ambitious, sinister shuffle of Early Kneecappings, which marries a nervy, suspenseful wall of strings with atmospheric piano and drums.
The instrumental treats keep unfolding through the woozy brass saunter and tumbledown piano of Dessau Rag; and by the bittersweet coda of Legends, you realise this bird has wings and, boy, does he fly gracefully.
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