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"A real horizon and a proper sky",
This review is from: Oxengate (Audio CD)
Candidate are a band who seem to foster grateful appreciation whenever I hear them mentioned .I have been ignorant of their work until this album , their fifth , and its surpassingly accessible mixture of folk and pop will, I feel , alienate as many listeners as it does have them singing their praises .It all skirts too close to MOR for many a palette I would judge but what s wrong with MOR when it's done with poise, restraint and intelligence. "Rumours" is the most shamelessly MOR album ever , at least aurally, yet I would rather listen to that for the 500th time than most of the tiresome indie dross that is so prevalent nowadays.
By now you will have perceived that Oxengate is a slightly gaudy and melodious collection of sixteen tracks that sometimes mesh pastoral folk tinged whimsy with more effusive choral pop songs . These are tinged with fragments of field recordings -water gurgling , birds twittering ,that sort of thing- and more fragmentary sketches that recall hymns and all round the piano sing-a-longs.
Occasionally Oxengate will drift into a blue sky reverie like the last third of "Marie Alexander" where guest vocalist Alex Donahue ,s multi-tracked vocal backing soars like the vocals on Pink Floyds "Great Gig In The Sky" . Mostly though it's Joel Morris , one third of Candidate , whose voice symbolizes the album. Its s pleasant unremarkable tool but is powerful to really carry a song when it has to and on the more vociferous straight up pop tracks like "Furlough" , the insanely catchy "(Going Back To) Amsterdam" and "Harryhausen" his voice glides like an ice cream pedalo.
The songs are mostly framed in glistening acoustic and electric guitars with occasional banjo, organ , Wurlitzer or accordion. But massed vocals like those on "Sky" or plaintive flute like the instrumental "When They Rose From The Reeds" add touches of spatial interest . Violin and cello groan threateningly on "Swear It Will Snow" while "Tiny Tim" has someone called Steve "howling"! "Wesley" was recorded "live in the fire at Eastbridge".
Oxengate may be too polite even whimsical for some but the songs are mostly beautifully arranged, played and sung. It slumps a little in the middle but then so do I. Importantly it's book ended by half a dozen songs that while containing some pleasant nu-folk touches are mainly just cracking pop songs . To filch a line out of the multi-harmonic delights of "Cast Into The Storm " Oxengate gives you a "real horizon and a proper sky".