Two Sunsets (Geographic)
On first listen, this album was nothing short of overwhelming. I was in tears by track three and hooked until the final notes. While the collaboration between Glasgow indie veterans and the Japanese avant-pop duo starts pleasantly but inconspicuously enough, the second, eponymous track offers a real taste of what’s to come: oriental vocals, distant harmonies and a feeling that I can’t quite put my finger on. While the song, like much of the album, brims with wonder and enchantment, there’s a subtle disconcerting undertone- a feeling that something isn’t quite right. This ineffable heartbreak seems hard-wired into the music, even though it’s almost entirely masked by the beauty of the vocal harmonies.
‘Song for a Friend’ is the album’s first lyrical collaboration. After the opening verse, sweetly sung in Japanese by Saya Ueno, Stephcn McRobbie’s harsher, Scottish accent enters, swiftly followed by Annabel Wright and Katrina Mitchell’s softer voices. It’s a highly original dynamic which weaves throughout the album.
On ‘Vivid Youth’ things really wake up (albeit temporarily), taking a step out of the haze and into the party, The track revisits more of a classic Pastels sound featuring an enticing lead line, laid back bass, sparse percussion, and suitably nonchalant lyrics.
Without wishing to downplay the collaborators’ compositions, stunning, emotional and honest though they are, the standout track for me is a cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s ‘About You’. At the timc of writing I haven’t managed to listen to it without crying (although perhaps that might say more about me than it does about the song itself!) The opening bars crescendo into a soft, yet haunting lullaby- which sounds like a contradiction in terms, but that’s really how it is; the high, tuneful, almost wailing backing voices providing a bed for McRobbie’s measured, thoughtful vocals.
While the Pastels’ lo-fi, laid-back sound is still most definitely present, Tenniscoats’ Japanese influence makes everything on the album a little softer around the edges, with delightful consequences. The delicate instrumentation mixes unintrusive woodwind, the Pastels’ signature jangly guitars, and a diversity of voices creating an unusual and wholly welcome fusion. This is not the kind of album I want to listen to repeatedly. This is one of those gems that needs to be treated with caution and respect and only busted out on days which deserve it.
For a while after my first listen I assumed this was an album from the ’80s or early ’90s, not thanks to its presentation or recording style, but due to its unapologetic greatness. Perhaps I have lost too much respect for today’s PR-driven music industry, but I no longer expect to hear much in the way of wonderful recordings created by young groups. Tellingly perhaps, neither of the bands here are from my generation. As a 19 year-old I fear this cynicism has come a little prematurely. However, albums like this start to restore my faith, not only in the music biz, but in the ability of music to create something unexpected and beautiful.