Release Date: Jan 22, 2016
Record label: City Slang
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Over the course of a career now spanning 25 years and 11 albums, Tindersticks have proven themselves reigning masters of melancholy. The combination of rich layered instrumentation, carefully orchestrated strings and Stuart Staples' evocative vocals give feelings of loss and loneliness a cinematic grandeur, yet their consistently strong recordings never lapse into sentimental excess. That is a balancing act few can manage, and the group pull it off yet again here.They set the scene perfectly with an opening instrumental, "Follow Me," one whose gently swelling strings invite the listener to follow Tindersticks on what becomes an enchanting journey.
The best compliment ever paid Tindersticks is never having to see the words “’90s band” precede the group’s name. Even during that decade, the Nottingham outfit’s music felt somehow adrift in time—smoky, dignified, untethered to the era’s dominant styles. Quiet-LOUD-quiet? Tindersticks’ quiet was as sparse as the night, its loud moments funneling drama through piercing, orchestral cacophony (“Talk To Me,” “Don’t Look Down”).
The adventurous collective known as Tindersticks enters their 25th year with perhaps their most adventurous project yet, a ninth studio album, The Waiting Room, which they have released in tandem with a collection of short films inspired by the record’s songs. In collaboration with the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and la Blogotheque The Waiting Room Film Project is an organic extension of the album. Tindersticks have a long and ongoing relationship with the prominent French director Claire Denis, whose debut Chocolat won the Palme d’or at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival.
Tindersticks turn 25 this year. It’s a remarkable feat for any band, but even more impressive than the Nottingham outfit’s longevity is their consistency. Tindersticks have never released a bad album (or even a middling one), never made an opportunistic, trend-driven shift, and have never done anything that might date their music to its moment of origin.
Even before being called upon by filmmaker Claire Denis to provide soundtracks for Nénette Et Boni and Trouble Every Day – the first fruits of a partnership lasting over many years – Tindersticks have long had a visual affinity. Still startling after two decades, the sound the band honed over their first two LPs was alive with filmic flourishes: in the woozy monologues, grainy character pieces thick with cheap booze and regret; in the hues of country, flamenco, bruised barfly blues and swooning strings and, always, in Stuart Staples‘ inimitable baritone: chocolate flecked with cigarette ash, the quivering vibrato of a man at his tether’s end. They remain a natural fit for filmmakers – whether it’s Denis’ dark tales or upcoming David Foster Wallace road movie The End Of The Tour, where their aching lament to separation City Sickness soundtracks a drive through the Illinois suburbs as well as it might those of the band’s own, distant Nottingham.
The 10th album from Tindersticks comes with a collaborative film project, in which every song is translated by a different video director. While this very contemporary concept has been utilised by the likes of Justin Bieber and Beyoncé in recent years, The Waiting Room is not an album which needs adornments: there is a simple, traditional pleasure in its earthy, untampered warmth – it is an album to be ingested in one sitting; the kind of immersive, intricately produced music designed to be listened to on some extravagantly priced, high-quality audio player. Injecting life into their usual louche romance, We Are Dreamers is dragged further into darkness with the addition of Jehnny Beth of Savages on barbed vocals, while Hey Lucinda – recorded with the late Lhasa De Sela – is an elegantly dishevelled duet, sung as if both are slumped across a bar.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. The grandiosity remains, with a sharper focus applied to this more forthcoming version of the familiar Tindersticks template. Their first studio album since 2012's The Something Rain comes with many recognisable trappings. Always unabashed Francophiles, Tindersticks continue to make the kind of music that feels knowingly geared towards the French milieu.
Tindersticks have always come and gone like friends with a particularly acute case of wanderlust. Even after partial dissolution in 2006, the core of Stuart Staples (vocals), David Boulter (organ) and Neil Fraser (guitar) kept recording, recruiting new members and generally maintaining a remarkable level of quality control. Thankfully, tenth studio album The Waiting Room maintains their admirable poise; enveloping newer textures, ticking a few older boxes and bringing out a soulful looseness that manages to surprise, just as it did the first time round on 2001’s Can Our Love.
It’s baffling when people call Nottingham’s Tindersticks an 'indie rock band', especially 25 years into their career. Play The Waiting Room to anyone and several words will present themselves: 'jazz' is probably one of the first things you’ll say. There’s modern jazz all over this record, the subtle, laid back horn-spirals and quiet build-and-release of ‘Help Yourself’ can’t be described as anything else.
The Waiting Room is Tindersticks tenth studio album. Musically, it touches on virtually all the places they've visited in the past, but offers hints at new directions too. The soundtrack vibe the band have given off since they started working with director Claire Denis back in the late '90s, is virtually ever-present, but it doesn't bog down the album.
For their eleventh studio album (including the re-recordings for 2013's retrospective Across Six Leap Years), Tindersticks further redraw a sound that has previously touched on chamber pop, soul, lounge jazz, and other areas. The first song written for the album, "Help Yourself," is funkier than usual for the band, with singer Stuart Staples talking through much of his vocals as the players settle into an alternate version of the tight Stax Records sound, placing horns largely at the fore. With that at roughly the album's center, a gentle, evocative cover of the instrumental "Follow Me" from 1962's Mutiny on the Bounty serves as its opener.
There aren’t too many immediate points of valid comparison for Tindersticks; they’ve turned out five full-lengths since their 2008 reunion because they have a fanbase that can’t quite get these kinds of kicks anywhere else. ‘The Waiting Room’ is certainly faithful to the chamber pop template that has long proved the group’s calling card; it’s gloomy, sparse and occasionally stormy, generating real atmosphere in droves and understanding the power of economy as far as vocal turns are concerned. The claustrophobic instrumental ‘Fear of Emptiness’ serves as the record’s midpoint and centrepiece, as well as representing the album in microcosm; there are no layers or construction jobs on the doomy likes of ‘Second Chance Man’, and on the standout ‘Were We Once Lovers?’, Staples’ tortured vocals run across a guitar-and-synth partnership that’s equal parts doomy and dreamy.
Tindersticks’ suit-wearing stalwarts of soulful, crepuscular chamber rock have spent the past quarter-century tinkering with the classic palettes of lounge, soul, and countrified baroque pop, creating a body of work that’s shockingly eclectic for a band that pretty much only writes downbeat songs about romance and self-pity. Led by the head-cold baritone of frontman Stuart A. Staples, the band has never been easy to place, being more string-backed indie fellow travelers—the missing link between Nick Cave and early Belle & Sebastian—than true indie rockers, and a “love one song, love ’em all” cult act if there ever was one.
Tindersticks — The Waiting Room (Lucky Dog/City Slang)It would be fair to think you would know what to expect from a Tindersticks album in 2016; at least some of the band have been playing together since around 1991, although like any band of that vintage still making new records in 2016 they’ve had some changes and breaks during that time (particularly singer Stuart Staples going solo for a while, and half of the original six-person lineup leaving in 2006). Unlike some of their contemporaries, however, Tindersticks have neither avoided the possibilities for change that different personnel can bring, nor have they unceremoniously flung their old strengths over the side. Throughout their recent years the band have proven surprisingly adept at honoring both the old and new sides of their music, and with The Waiting Room they’ve used that approach to make their best album in years.
The consistent focus upon the relationship between love and the passage of time on The Waiting Room makes for one of Tindersticks' most lyrically pointed records in recent years. This seems clear by even midway through the third track, 'Were We Once Lovers?' in which the struggle between memory and a failed amorous encounter moves from an ephemeral lightness to a tragic weight. "Did I take your number?/Did I call?/Did we spend our loves together?/I can't recall." On the previous track, 'Second Chance Man', the protagonist mourns his incapacity to identify love except when it had already slipped away.
Certain voices just have something about them, an uncanny ability to draw its listener into a particular state of mind. On Tindersticks tenth album, The Waiting Room, Stuart Staples continues to be the owner of just such a voice. Tindersticks’ music has always been underpinned by a sense of melancholy. so consistently and excellently does it deliver its distinct mood, often sounding like a film noir soundtrack.