added: 27 Apr 2013
// release date: 13 May 2013 // label: Navigator Records
reviewer: Paul Chapinal
The principality is musically in rude health. While the likes of the Manic’s and Stereophonics lumber into middle age and the road, there’s a crop of bands that are starting to make waves beyond Offa’s Dyke. The pyrotechnic The Joy Formidable are ripping up all before them, while the more sedate Paper Aeroplanes have been progressing nicely for a few years now.
Little Letters is the duos third album, and a step away from the previous two in that this has a more rounded band feel about it. The full on opener When The Windows Shook tells of tragedies that befell the communities around singer Sarah Howells’s hometown, pretty much encapsulates the change in direction, and ambition. That ambition is consolidated by the exquisite and complex lullaby, Red Rover. The very early Fleetwood Macish Fable is next, deftly blending Sarah Howells voice and acoustic guitar.
The title track is another high; from its bleak start, it ambulates, picking up pace, atmosphere, tension and instruments, heading towards an epic climax, the band actually pull back, leaving you feeling robbed and exhilarated at the same time: brilliant. In the old days that would have ended side 1, and side 2 opener, the plaintive Multiple Love, would have been ideal, unfortunately on CD, fine song that it is, it’s almost buried by its predecessor.
As the album hits the home run so we hit a seam of gold with the Americana of Silence The Bells, the heart wringing Sleeper Train and what sounds like a love/hate summing up of their chosen career that is the appropriately named Circus.
The delight of this album stems from the duos heartfelt storytelling plus instinctive instrumentation and arrangements. Sara Howells’s voice is outstanding; adapting to each song’s tempo and vibe, almost perfectly. This could be one of the albums of the year, and most certainly should lift their profiles up a notch or two.
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