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Listening

British Sea Power, Open Season

In 2003 the boys in pith helmets released their debut album, The Decline and Fall of British Sea Power, which, in this reviewer’s opinion, was the finest album of that year. Naturally, this has had some of us a little antsy about what might show up as their follow-up effort. Well here it is, and our fears that it would be anything less than the last album were utterly without foundation. Where Decline is rawkish and brave, Open Season is moody and introspective. Cue the mellotrons and samples of children exploring a forest, because it’s an almost wholly different sound this time around.

Everything on this album has a sense of delicateness to it, a crisp fragility that is practically unbelievable. Emblematic of this is “North Hanging Rock,” with a gently plucked acoustic guitar that sounds like it simply won’t be able to make it through the whole song, but it gets a lot of help from the layers and layers that build and build, until the song is one beautiful sensory assault. You will think: “Astounding” and “How did they just do that?” and “Did he just say ‘Drape yourself in greenery / Become part of the scenery’?” Oh yes.

The most outstanding song here—and that’s hardly putting enough importance on it—is the album finale, “True Adventures,” a journey if ever there were one. Swelling orchestral tracks swell and crash in upon themselves as waves, exposing the open landscape of a virgin world that feels as new for them as it does for us, that explores entirely new territory. It’s brilliant, it’s mesmerizing, it’s extraordinary: “You think it’s gone, my friend / But it comes back again”

Is Open Season as good as The Decline and Fall of British Sea Power? Hardly—it’s better.

biopic

Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. He is always working on the next installment of the Albums of the Year series at TMN. More by Andrew Womack

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