The first spin of a new black watch album always feels like coming home. Those first few guitar strums of Saint Fair Isle Sweater are the crunch of your feet on that familiar drive way and then the door opens and you are warmly greeted by shimmering guitars, the lushness of which beckons you inside and by the time the vocals kick in you have a cup of tea in your hand and your feet on the table. Ahhh…and relax.
It’s an odd yet wonderful feeling, one that I don’t experience too often these days, a sensation I associate with a whole host of bands from my formative years but which I rarely encounter in my modern sonic escapades. And to that point, I’m beginning to think that John Andrew Fredrick is not the Californian man of letters that he claims to be but rather the owner of a small coffee shop in the back streets of Oxford, England, it’s the only way to explain the resonance of his music with so many bands I associate with that Thames Valley sound, from Ride to Lush from Slowdive to Chapterhouse.
Anyway, enough conspiracy theories. As always, Fromthing Somethat was well with waiting for, not that we ever have to wait long, the band’s combination of work rate and quality intersect at a point on the Venn diagram that I suspect is a lonely place for them these days. It’s always a good sign when you find yourself only three tracks in and already have a song on repeat play, but The Lonesome Death of Mary Hansen is just that addictive, a blend of sonic drama and rich vocal blends, layer upon layer of deftly woven sonic textures, each on their own light and floating, taken together an ever-shifting cocoon of sonic warmth and beauty.
When I manage to tear myself away, I find many similar moment waiting for me further down the line. Drip, drip, drip is a lovely slice of chiming and charming pop, For Always Then to Keep is understated, ambient and ethereal and Green Stars, Clouds Departing is beguiling and beautiful.
Most artists would be happy to write one album as complete as this in their whole career, this is JAF’s 19th! Read that again …nine-flippin’ -teen! Take that would be pretenders to the alt-pop throne!