Release Date: Apr 19, 2011
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Electronic, Indie Pop, Chamber Pop
Three years after the magnetic St. Dymphna, Gang Gang Dance has produced another manic and joyful album of worldbeat noises. Eye Contact plays like a dramatic cycle from morning to night: the feel of the album peaks and dips in energy in a perfect sequence to sustain energy and attention. Though it pushes more towards traditional song structure than Gang Gang has done in the past, the group does not give up its expert taste for noise, squeaks, pops, and maxed out bass.
The aural equivalent of a late spring breeze, Talahomi Way finds Sean O’Hagan and the rest of the High Llamas in a decidedly dreamy state of mind. Interludes like “Angel Connector” drift in and out softly and sweetly, making the band’s previous album Can Cladders sound downright heavy in comparison, and the lush strings and genteel brass and woodwinds on tracks such as “Wander, Jack, Wander” and “To the Abbey” feel like they have as much in common with Burt Bacharach and Nelson Riddle as they do with Brian Wilson. Interspersed with these reveries are fine examples of O’Hagan's pop-craft: “Berry Adams” opens the album with an alluring sparkle; “Take My Hand” captures seaside romance in two-and-a-half minutes; “Talahomi Way” reconfigures the Llamas' Stereolab-ish side into a serene travelogue; and “Fly Baby Fly” flirts with Baroque pop and soft rock.
Head High Llama Sean O'Hagan recently mused on his working methods and storied career in a podcast. For someone entering his fourth decade of making underground music, the singer found real-life pressures had forced him to put his main band on the back burner. The interview reveals that his natural talent as an arranger allowed him to keep working in music in some capacity, but those long stretches between High Llamas albums aren't going to be getting shorter any time soon.
Somewhere far above Nathan Williams’ lazy kingdom, Sean O’Hagan and his High Llamas are toasting on the beachward-facing veranda of some glass-fronted, streamline moderne pad, not unlike the one depicted on the front cover of Talahomi Way. The Llamas aren’t like other bands because they don’t follow the typical release-and-tour template. It’s been four years since Can Cladders and four more since Beet Maize & Corn; clearly, O’Hagan makes albums when he wants to.
This might perhaps be not so much a critique as an apology. You see, I genuinely wanted to like this disc more than I do. Sean O’Hagan—for all intents, the mastermind behind the High Llamas—has been someone whose work was always worth making time for. That he was a potentially major art-pop talent was evident all the way back to his days as composer and co-founder of (with singer/lyricist/force of nature Cathal Coughlan) ‘80s Irish pop subversives Microdisney.
In a recent interview Irish guitarist/songwriter Sean O’Hagan noted that his band’s new album “Is a colourful record that has a spring feel at the start and an early spring evening feel at the end. There is reference to the pink evening sky.” While merely describing something obscurely aesthetic – without any reference to the actual sound of the album – he was definitely employing that while music is all sound, it never needs to be purely about that. With The High Llamas, O’Hagan has proven that music feels and can also carry emotion and soul without ever wondering what type of music it really ever is.