The most self-consciously arty of Piano Magic's prolific album output, and certainly the hardest to pin down. Concentrating more on sound and mood than song and tune, the little songs here seem like diary excerpts, backed by the tinkling of sugary instruments. "Postal" tells about a depressed former postperson who "kept the last day's letters", while "Certainty" muses that while there are more people alive now than have ever lived, the animals in films are probably dead. Underneath, the harps, celestas and xylophones mimble around and around like clockwork, and only occasionally do they return to the indie-pop sounds of "Low Birth Weight". Stronger songs include the loungy 7-minute "The Season Is Long", featuring the casual Bono-like vocals of John Grant, and "Shot Through the Fog" backed by a richly reverbed piano. Notably also "Crown of the Lost" which was fragile-voiced folk singer Vashti Bunyan's first recorded vocal for a few decades, predating her album "Lookaftering". I can see some of the album's austerely elegant attraction, but too often it's a head-scratcher. Lovers of "Low Birth Weight" will wonder where all the tunes have gone.
May 25, 2008