This was one I was looking forward to alright!
After all, Dark Captain Light Captain's debut album, Miracle Kicker, is one of my favourite albums of recent years. In fact, on receiving this album, I was so excited that I didn't notice straight away that they have now shortened their name to the less time consuming Dark Captain. It might be snappier, but personally I must admit that I kinda liked the 'bit-of-a-mouthful' old moniker! Anyway, it must be about three years since Miracle Kicker and, if I'm being totally honest, I was hoping that they might venture into the more rhythmic direction that was hinted at on the Can-like remix on the interim e.p. they released in 2009. But they seem to have gone for more of the same - quality songs, hushed vocals and gorgeous harmonies. Not that I'm complaining, because from listen one you know that the so-called 'difficult second album' syndrome is not going to apply here.
Dead Legs & Alibis opens strongly with 3 Years To Go which has a really atmospheric intro, but the following track, Submarines, is even better. In fact it's classic Dark Captain as they harmonise "We shouldn't have to try this hard" over a tinkling piano and an almost shuffling beat. Fabulous stuff!
Long Distant Driver, meanwhile, is a gentler affair to begin with, but it builds up nicely with an almost military beat under-pinning some quite beautiful Sigur Ros-like arrangements. It's moving stuff. Right Way Round, which follows, is another highlight as those voices sparkle over a playful beat whilst Fade is altogether slower and more mournful with some almost West Coast harmonies.
Different & Easier opens like MOR standard Love Is In The Air, but don't let that put you off because it suddenly veers off into a different direction before being sprinkled with some Nick Drake Poor Boy-like piano. 80000 Reasons might feature some driving bass and drums, but this can't disguise Dark Captain's almost overwhelming sense of melancholia. And that melancholic streak runs right through the rather beautiful Strange Journeys Home with its strong yet simple instrumental hook.
The opening few seconds of Ex Detective sounds like Dark Captain are going to have bash at Television's classic Marquee Moon, but this proves to be something of a red herring as a another simple guitar riff then starts to play over a lovely, lolloping bass line. Dead Legs & Alibis ends quietly with the acoustic Flickering Light, a number where the voices merge in much the same way that Simon & Garfunkel's once did. "Nothing like a flickering light," they sing over and over. And then it's gone. Alas!
There have been some great albums this year – those by Low, Wire, and The Wild Swans are a few that spring straight to mind. This is another.
Come on, people. Dark Captain are too good to ignore any longer.