May 06, 2005

The Lucksmiths "Warmer Corners"

Warmer Corners, The Lucksmiths' first new record in nearly two years (and umpteenth--okay, seventh overall) was certainly worth the wait, because this album...this album is different. Is it because the band's older now, and with age comes a certain refinement of taste? Or maybe it's the stately baroque arrangements, courtesy of ace producer Craig Pilkington? It's probably safe to say that all of those factors combined produced the magic of Warmer Corners.

For those endeared to The Lucksmiths' poppy style, Warmer Corners might be a bit of a pleasant shock. On first listen, the album seems overly depressing and downbeat; stylewise, it seems to owe a lot to singer Tali White's side project, The Guild League, and . But sometimes first listens can be deceiving, and that's certainly the case here. Yes, the music on Warmer Corners is darker and yes, compared to previous Lucksmiths records, Warmer Corners is downbeat in a way that's somewhat uncharacteristic of these normally sunny-yet-sad song singers. (At times, the style seems to be related to the most recent album by White's side project, The Guild League.)

Don't let those first impressions fool you, though. Starting with "A Hiccup In Your Happiness," it obvious that something seems different in Lucksmiths land, and that horn and string section has a lot to do with it. Arrangements are bigger, bolder; White's singing is warm and inviting, even when he's singing some mighty sad songs. You'll hear horns here, strings there and the occasional pedal steel, and while these things might be a new development for the band, they feel quite natural. It must be said, though, that "The Fog of Trujillo" sounds like a lost Blood, Sweat and Tears classic--never thought the day would come when the two bands would be compared!

Even though they've refined their sound, they're still capable of writing some extremely catchy songs. "The Chapter In Your Life Entitled San Francisco," an ode to the loneliness of long distance love is easily one of the best songs you'll hear this year. "Sunlight In A Jar," with its sweet Byrds-style guitar and Smiths-style melody and White's frantic, caffeinated singing will bring you back for more. For those who prefer their earlier indie-pop style, you'll enjoy "The Music Next Door" and "Young And Dumb," two songs that are more traditionally Lucksmiths in style. It would be wrong to fail to mention "Fiction," an ode to "the girl from Kansas City with my favorite tattoo," which closes the record with a nice wash of accordian, violin, pedal steel and melancholy. It sounds like a slice of old New Orleans, and if this is the direction that future Lucksmiths records will go, then all that's left to say is: YES!

After a decade, the Lucksmiths' craft has yet to lose its wonder. Though the album might seem a bit different from past Lucksmiths efforts, it's actually business as usual for this fine Australian band; they're still making warm, sunny and sad songs for the intelligent music listener, and Warmer Corners is indeed a warmer, mellower record that will grow on you with each successive listen.

--Joseph Kyle

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