This is the second outing for the most well known band to come out of Brighton `Wilkommen Collective', the Leisure Society. Whilst this really is a team effort, front man Nick Hemming wrote all the music so deserves most of the laurels for this one.
They had a theory on how this album wanted to sound, in that they only wanted to use authentic natural instruments. So we have a smorgasbord of interesting things being played such as harpsichord, theramin (?), flexatone, marimba and my favourite flugal horn (cos you know it sounds smutty). It opens like a sixties theme tune with the title track and even has background Hollywoodesque operatics. One of my friends said on first hearing it is very like the excellent `Sleeper'The Sleeper, which is actually not a bad thing. The whole album hangs together beautifully belying the amount of effort that has clearly gone into it. `Our hearts burn like damp matches', is a lovely soft ballad and has the line `Every day arrives too late, Every morning seems the same, Stale regrets and dull routine'. They bring a summery welcome to music that just makes you want to smile, there is even a touch of Bix Beiderbecke going on at one point too, it may not be original but it don't half sound good.
A word on the sleeve, it is just fab, with a cut out outer sleeve and a book type presentation, with some lovely comic style underwater artwork and full lyrics, just quality and to quote from `Although we are lost' -`We know we're happy now'. As with their first album this takes a while to get into, but it is well worth the effort, my current favourite is `Better written off (than written down)' which seems to get better each time and has music twists that are a trade mark in generosity of this great band, Miss at your peril and they are an absolute must see live too.
I wouldnt quite know how to categorize this music if I had to. "Folk-pop" is one description that has been used, and i suppose that is as close as one could get, but it doesnt convey the sophistication of the songs. Melodic and tuneful, at times a little folky, yet also modern. And the term "pop" doesnt really fit, as these are songs for grown-ups. The professionalism extends to the packaging- the best CD case I have ever come across, almost a cross between a little box and a book - just as much fun to handle as in the great days of vinyl album sleeves. My only criticism is that the smoothness could do with being broken up by some occasional raucousness, passion and musical recklessness
I have to say, Into the Murky Water was not an instant hit to my ears. I can't put my finger on why that was. Anyhow, now, I could probably sing-a-long to every track on the album. The songs have wormed their way into my head and are fixed. Even the kids sing to certain snippets of songs in the back seat. Excellent song craft and quirky interesting lyrics. Most importantly, the musicianship and structure of the songs are sheer class. Why it took me a few months to love it, I still don't know, but once your in love....
Appropriately enough for an album released just as the weather began to improve, `Into The Murky Water' is the aural equivalent of sitting in the beer garden of a quaint country pub with a ploughman's lunch and a foaming pint of nut brown ale. Packed with flavour and shot through with a comforting warmth, this is an album made for lazy sunny days.
There is also an air of eccentricity to the album, which was conceived during a road trip along the British coast. The decision was made early on to use only authentic instruments, regardless of how inconvenient that may prove to be. So it came to pass that the band trekked the length of the country just to find the right pipe organ sound or to tickle the keys of a vintage harpsichord.
Thankfully, their efforts paid off. This is a fulsome and grand record, packed with sturdy instrumentation yet not at the expense of clear, hummable melodies. From the very first track the listener is confronted by all manner of instruments, yet the experience is not overwhelming. What could have felt like an acoustic assault feels much more akin to a harmonic hug thanks to the band's natural grasp of song craft.
For the most part the music is up-tempo and chipper - such as the sprightly percussion of the eponymous opener or the delirious sway of `You Could Keep Me Talking' - but even when the mood dips, it strikes for wistful rather than melancholy. `Our Hearts Burn Like Damp Matches' is a prime example of this - a song ideal for gazing out of a train window with a wry smile.
The closest comparison one could reasonably draw would be to the work of Divine Comedy. The two acts hold a similar grasp of lyricism and melody, each being capable of sweeping and soaring in the most enjoyable fashion, yet also able to restrain themselves sufficiently to allow the natural beauty of a song to shine through. Vocally, the Leisure Society are rather lighter, yet there is still adequate substance to ensure that the voice is not lost amid the excitable clamour of the music.
Suffice to say, if you only buy one quirky indie-pop-folk album this Summer, make it this one. Just do it quickly, while the sun's still here...
Nick and the gang follow up their first album with an aural selection box of delights, that takes you through the emotional toil that life has to throw at you. Well worth a listen if you liked the first album. Or if you simply fancy a change from all the over processed and production heavy music currently floating about in the ether! This is real music made by real musicians!
Last years sublime "Sleeper" album is a very hard act to follow, two Ivor Novello awards, praise from all directions and songs I have taken to heart (buy it!)
So I approached "Murky Water" with excitement and a little trepidation. The first single "This Phantom Life" was a good album track I thought , but maybe not a single. Need I worry, of course not - the album is an absolute joy! Nick Hemming is Britain's finest melodist. Once again the arrangements and instrumentation sparkle and this should be the soundtrack to everyone's Summer. You MUST catch them live somewhere soon.
I see from my itunes upload of the CD that I have played "Dust on the Dancefloor" and the achingly beautiful "Our Hearts Burn Like Matches" the most. But I am learning to love this album as much as Sleeper, no duffers here.
Comparisons are often made to Neil Hannon, but I am not a fan of The Divine Comedy myself. To me it is more like Paul McCartney and Ray Davies (with whom they recently collaborated) mixed up with the Penguin Cafe Orchestra - BUT the Leisure Society have their own unique sound and what a glorious sound it is.
The pressure is on for that difficult third album!
I urge you to buy this one in the meantime, check out B002G1Y8TU Sleeper too and get off your butts and go and see them live!
How this band gets under the radar of the radio I don't know - nobody I know has ever heard of them which is a crime! Melodically wonderful, musically brilliant, totally original and a "must buy" for anyone with an ear for a good song.