Left With Pictures Beyond Our Means Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Lush pocket symphonies both lyrically arch and stunningly tender.

Rob Crossan 2009

Twinkling pianos hop-scotch around this debut long-play collection of tunes from an East London five-piece whose folkish-leanings have been more fully explored on this album, after the torch song melancholy that dominated their previous EPs.

Her Father’s Nose is a beautifully realised jaunt around faded memories: “Our imaginary meetings are over cigarettes and wine / I think we should have met in California in 69” is a typically witty and playfully affecting line. Lyrical duties are shared between the group on this brief album, but its sole songwriter Stuart Barber’s voice that really delights – a sonorous and woozy sound that dazzles on The Flight Paths, a shimmering lullaby of melodica, piano and softly purring violin with lyrics that talk of being “scared of the sky, but next to you I have no fear”.

‘Chamber pop’ is how this album will doubtless be described, with all its connotations of tweeness. But Beyond Our Means possesses a sound that feels like it should be seeping up from the bowels of the servants’ quarters in Gosford Park. There’s an almost Edwardian crispness to Barber’s vocals, a man who can enunciate lyrical similes as “I must keep up my double standards, like a new Stone Henge” without sounding ridiculously gauche.

This is a record that takes the tweed-donning primness of early Divine Comedy and the voracious book worm tendencies of the first Belle and Sebastian album to create a charming patchwork of tunes that defy a low budget to create lush pocket symphonies both lyrically arch and stunningly tender.

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