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Excellent London-based micro label Audio Antihero have a new signing - their first from foreign lands. New York’s Cloud have produced a strange and beguiling album; a lovely melting pot of neo-psychedelia, 90s US indie, post-rock and jazz influences, with a distinct coming-of-age theme.
Opener 'Cars & It’s Autumn' is a charmingly ramshackle anthem that morphs into something wholly more mature and glorious in its extended, horn-infused coda. It’s a mixture of naivety and taut musicianship that becomes familiar through the course of the album.
A similar innocence-and-experience mixture can be found in Tyler Taormina’s lyrics; a heady blend of youthful idealism and painful heart-on-sleeve introspection, often within one couplet. At the close of ‘Authorless Novel’ our protagonist fantasises: 'I only wish to be a cosmic force', before his agonising admission: 'I don’t want to be the main character of my own life anymore'. Such moments of angst bring to mind early Bright Eyes, however musically the album strongly recalls several other turn-of-the-century indie acts - particularly The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev. In fact it’s often easy to imagine Dave Fridmann behind the controls, such is the wide-eyed breadth of the sound.
‘Mother Sea’, the first single from the album is, unsurprisingly, one of its highlights. The opening half consists of a dose of high- energy skewed pop, with Tyler’s vocals at their most fraught and desperate, chucking up a litany of images to accompany its electrifying rhythm. It feels increasingly out of control, like it’s tumbling down a mountain, until Tyler’s exasperated cry of 'I think I’m ready to love myself!' (which seems quite silly, as I write it, but feels absolutely vital on record) marks the end of the first half. Like ‘Cars &’ it then employs the cunning trick of using a jaw-dropping coda: drumstick heavy, with waves of dizzying feedback and increasingly prominent piano, it is an exercise in how to end a song in enthralling style.
At a snip under ten minutes, penultimate track ‘Desperation Club’ is easily the longest on the album and a clear nod to a more post-rock influence. It starts slow and gradually gets a whooooole lot slower, its narcotic groove finally winding down to a close like the archetypal non-Duracell bunny running out of juice.
With its mournful trumpet, double bass and brushed drums, the heavily jazz-informed final track, ‘Halley’s Comet’ is another welcome change in feel and a beautiful way to bring the curtain down on an album that constantly surprises with its scope and ambition.
Comfort Songs is not a flawless piece of work, but its main flaw is simply that it has such bold ambition, and is loaded with so many brilliant ideas, that it sometimes feels lacking in direction. Yet this is also a key to its copious charm, and it is through this wayward nature that its form perfectly echoes its subject; the erratic confusion of early adulthood.
Comfort Songs is available to buy on vinyl from Mon 05 Aug 2013 on Audio Antihero
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