The New Zealander realises a lushly arranged third LP.
Jon Lusk 2012
Following up an album as infectiously appealing as Chant Darling must have given James Milne a few sleepless nights. The New Zealander’s second record, released in the UK in 2010, had enough hooks to make a colossal squid squirm with envy.
The Sparrow, Milne’s third set as Lawrence Arabia, partly avoids the obvious in favour of a more considered, instrumentally rich approach to songwriting.
Aside from the swooning violins and 50s-style arpeggios of Travelling Shoes, there’s nothing as immediately accessible as Apple Pie Bed. But The Sparrow is still a lovely, lushly arranged album, which finds the artist maturing artfully.
Milne is apparently drawing inspiration from the work of Scott Walker in the late 60s – by then, Walker had moved on from his pop roots towards a more esoteric creative headspace. But, thankfully, there’s no gratuitous weirdness.
Milne still sounds a little like John Lennon in places, and revels in the odd panted falsetto in others. And he can still write things as funny as The Bisexual: “Why don’t you come over / So you can hear me / You’re a snake in the grass / I don’t want you near me.”
This is preceded by the ambitious, sinister shuffle of Early Kneecappings, which marries a nervy, suspenseful wall of strings with atmospheric piano and drums.
The instrumental treats keep unfolding through the woozy brass saunter and tumbledown piano of Dessau Rag; and by the bittersweet coda of Legends, you realise this bird has wings and, boy, does he fly gracefully.