wears the trousers magazine

clare & the reasons: arrow (2009)
November 9, 2009, 10:08 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: ,


Clare & The Reasons
Arrow ••••
Frog Stand Records

Few cities in the world can call themselves home to such an eclectic mix of musical styles as New York, a place which produces excellent artists from what seems like an unseen factory encompassing all its myriad districts. It would not be unfair or totally inaccurate to say that much of the musical output of the city has a cynical edge though, from the spiky art punk of Patti Smith to the cavernous, sepulchral Interpol, with a multitude of stops along the way. Even jazz-pop pioneers Steely Dan were the kings of dark, twisted tales disguised by immaculate grooves. It therefore often comes as a shock to see the other side of the coin – a record which dispenses with the world-weary New Yorker’s perspective in favour of fully embracing the possibilities inherent in the city that never sleeps. It is even more surprising when New York-based artists pluck their influences instead from the West Coast, as seems to be the case with Arrow, the second album from Brooklyn residents Clare & The Reasons.

For their 2007 debut, The Movie, Clare and Olivier Manchon recruited Sufjan Stevens and Van Dyke Parks, but this latest release smacks more of Brian Wilson and Ray Davies; no shortage of sunny, daydream pop and idealistic, cosy imagery. After the quirky pizzicato of opener ‘All The Wine’ comes ‘Ooh You Hurt Me So’, sounding like a lost track from The Kinks’ masterpiece The Village Green Preservation Society, with its jaunty arrangement and even a carefree whistle or two for good measure. ‘You Got Time’ is an ideal showcase for Clare Manchon’s floating whisper of a voice, with its slight hint of Katie Melua. “You got time to turn around and make things right,” she sings soothingly, as the song moves from a subdued beginning to a grand cinematic sweep recalling The Beatles’ ‘Goodnight’.

The Reasons’ live line-up has on occasion been augmented by members of Beirut, amongst others, and, whether consciously or not, the music at times hints of Zach Condon’s band, with a rich variety of instruments and arrangements used. Elsewhere, a sense of Arcade Fire urgency and rhythm underpins ‘Mellifera’, while ‘You Getting Me’ features heavy repetition of musical and lyrical phrases, eventually building to a crescendo of clamouring brass and strings. The mournful ‘Kyoto Nights’ veers between an almost nursery rhyme vocal melody and an arrangement featuring guitar and brass which seems to faintly point at something darker, while the spirit of 1950s showtunes is successfully revived for the melodious ‘Photograph’.

Despite all the undoubted optimism that has gone before, perhaps the lure of something more sinister was too much to resist for the Manchons, as ‘Murder, They Want Murder’ suggests – tambourines and sweet harmonies belie a paranoid lyrical profile describing gossiping neighbours with homicidal intentions. Nevertheless, for listeners in search of an antidote to the customary cynicism of the music scene, Arrow could be just the ticket; bright, positive and dramatic, it is life affirming even in its rare dark moments. Perhaps the only thing lacking in the album is an uptempo selection or two, but this is something that Clare & The Reasons are no doubt capable of given the inclination. For now it seems they are quite content to focus on soothing what ails us, and boy do we need it.

Matt Bregazzi
UK release date: 19/10/09 [digital only]; www.myspace.com/clareandthereasons


‘All The Wine’

Arrow EPK


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