This third album from Glasgow guitarist Jim McCulloch portrays an increased confidence and, at times, a brashness that may reflect the experience he's gained from writing and performing with the acclaimed Isobel Campbell/Mark Lanegan collaboration over the past few years. Although there are no major changes from his sun dappled folksy style there is a bit more muscle in the guitar contributions and general arrangements, the songwriting is more assured and the production is at times quite sublime. A major change however is the decision to have 8 of the 11 songs sung by female vocalists, perhaps recognising his own vocal limitations (previous albums having benefited from contributions from Ms Campbell). No Ms Campbell on this album then but she is more than ably replaced by a quartet of Glaswegian based singers. Best known of the four is Emma Pollock but the other three (Melanie Whittle of The Hermit Crabs, Sandra Belda of California Snow Story and Anna Sheard of Snowgoose) more than compensate for the lack of Ms Campbell's presence.
The album see saws between California inspired sunshine pop and a more pastoral temperate folk sound but the bossa nova style of the otherwise fine "Summer Was His Name" is, in these surroundings, slightly out of place.
McCulloch sings lead on "The Liars" stretching his voice until it almost resembles a rural Robert Wyatt. Here a simple guitar melody supports his vocals as Emma Pollock harmonises. Towards the end an angry electric guitar outburst dramatically alters the mood but an excellent little song nonetheless. Of the other folkier songs "The Shell Song" opens (and closes with an instrumental reprise) the album. Melodica and acoustic guitar adorn a simple lyric that might reflect McCulloch's new found confidence as Pollock sings "It's all right, it's OK, I'm coming out my shell, just trying to find a way." "The Apple Sun," sung by Anna Sheard, is so reminiscent of early Joni Mitchell it's spooky, however it must be said that it would not be out of place on one of Joni's albums, such is the quality here. Finally, "In Time" again sung by Sheard has the makings of a classic folksong and sounds like it has been plucked from an earlier time.
The sunnier, rockier songs just add to the sum total here. Echoes of Crosby, and Nash inform "Golden Geese" and "Carry Me Away" which is a joyous romp with a winning chorus. "So Near So Far," propelled by some nice guitar licks and organ worms its way into your brain. Best of all is the second song on the album, "Angel Angel" which with chunky guitar, dreamlike production and Melanie Whittle's oh so cool vocals recalls classic sixties Hollywood psychedelic pop productions and induces goosebumps in this listener.
Crammed into a little over 36 minutes this is an almost perfect listen. With the bookended Shell Song(s) stick it on repeat and surround yourself with summer.