Lowes’ The Joy Of Waiting (Railings records) is achingly poptastic with gems such as I Find You that gush forth with melodies and heart-achingly simple lyrics. A logical comparison is Sarah Nixey formerly of Black Box Recorder, but you don’t detect in Lowes a sense of the macabre, just an easy-going approach to life, music and a love of chocolate-topped oat biscuits.
Little Fishy goes full-tilt into the chorus: “on the end of my line, little fishy of mine, heading straight to my plate” which could be reference to the test of survival in some communities, or, well you could look beyond the basic lines and wonder what Lowes is actually fishing for. There’s an incredible burst of Hammond-esque organs midway through, which is a bit of a jolt because for the first couple of minutes the song is a gorgeous, one-verse classic. Reality is resumed after a spell and the song ends gloriously drenched in the vague-pop so beloved of Cate Le Bon.
And then there’s Chapman of Rhymes, which is strangely reminiscent of 70s rock revivalists in the opening stanza but is actually a harmless and mundane track that is easily passable. I haven’t fallen in love with the song, but I adore its formation, and I’m taken in by the strange turns this album can take, from the effervescent and the beautiful to the dark and sublime.
After this I played Marc Almond’s Velvet Trail (Cherry Red records). Until two EPs released last year, both harking back to his 80s glam-new pop phase, I hadn’t listened to the man for a decade and a half. I guess a lot of people could say the same.
Those EPs, which included illuminating tracks like Death of a Dandy, were a return to form of sorts for Almond, so I place this in the tray with intrigue and confidence.
It was an album forged online, via emails with producer/ songwriter Chris Braide containing lyrics and instrumental tracks. Soon, three basic initial tracks had become a full-blown album, an unintentional one given that Almond had all but vowed that 2010’s Variete was to be his last of original material.
Despite the alien workings, Velvet Trail is very much a typical Almond album, bursting with torch songs, ballads, pop beauty and heart-on-the-sleeve confessions. Bad To Me sees Almond trying to forgive a lover for a vicious act; Winter Sun reflects on a fading romance; The Pain of Never is Almond in typically heartbroken mode and When The Comet Comes is a curious duet with the Gossip’s Beth Ditto, a delightful, overblown epic that has ‘radio friendly’ written all over it, though Ditto’s contribution sounds contrite and unnecessary.
The Velvet Trail beats no new ground, and that is its endearing quality: it’s Almond from Soft Cell, 80s solo diva, through to recent camp veteran.