Latest album of strange and clever pop from our favourite northern emigres.
Having enjoyed previous albums by The Lancashire Hustlers there was a real sense of anticipation before putting this latest CD into the player, and as expected the music didn't disappoint. For those unfamiliar here's a brief resume – Brent Thorley and Ian Pakes are two northerners exiled in London who make intelligent, literate adult pop music that leans heavily on their vocal harmonising and tasteful song-supporting arrangements. They sound like a mash-up of Steely Dan and The Everly Brothers busking somewhere on the Central Line.
Stuck In A Daydream is the duo's fifth full-length album. Their previous albums were all made with a central thread or narrative, the songs connected by a unifying story or theme. What Made Him Run from 2015 centres on family relationships and what happens when ambition runs wild, whereas Adventure (2017) is a globe-straddling cinematic musical travelogue. On Stuck In A Daydream however they've freed themselves up from such constructs, allowing each song to stand on it's own merits.
That said many of the songs' subject matter deal with a sense of disconnect, displacement and a gentle yearning. 'Have You Seen My Twin?' may be a song about the phenomena of womb twin survival. 'Underwater Memories' flips the gender roles in a story of a mer-man leaving the sea in search of on-land love. 'Consider Me' is a relatively straightforward love song but again centres on this need to connect. Similarly 'Been' and 'My Friend' both deal with issues surrounding separation. And album closer 'Party Pooper' captures that feeling we've all had when we feel out of place.
There's more though. 'Art Appreciation' deals with the bafflement and minefield that many of us feel when trying to er... appreciate art. Then there's the dreamy instrumental title track and 'Put On A Platform', a mysterious sphinx of a song with snaking saxophone lines and cryptic lyrics.
As ever with The Lancashire Hustlers the music is a delight, doesn't beg you to pay attention with overblown tricks but instead opts for a slow-burning, ultimately more persuasive low-level charm offensive. Plenty of hand-held percussion, an array of musical instruments from around the world, snazzy snatches of fuzz guitar here and neat touches of piano or Mellotron there. But the jewel in the crown is as ever the intelligent songcraft and their vocal harmony blend. Stuck In A Daydream may well be The Lancashire Hustlers' finest release to date. If you've yet to experience their music it's a great place to start.
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