Following a brief hiatus after 2007's critically acclaimed debut Thirst for Romance, Cherry Ghost's second album is an even stronger calling card for those yet to be introduced to their brooding take on country/folk-tinged rock. With help from Doves and Massive Attack producer Dan Austin, Beneath This Burning Shoreline presents an even greater canvas. Dispelling the sense that Cherry Ghost is simply a vehicle for singer/songwriter Simon Aldred, this feels like a full-band effort with intimate arrangements of epic songs.
The imaginative song titles may deter listeners preferring albums to not read like sonnets, but they manage to be clever without ever alienating the listener. Despite hope and light occasionally shining through, there is a pervading darkness, particularly on songs like The Night They Buried Sadie Clay, which is jaw-dropping: a funeral march of mariachi strings, gentle brass and a country twang, although a phone call from Nick Cave regarding the title feels imminent. Not that Aldred shares our adopted-Australian's timbre; instead, his soulful croon is hard to place, with shades of Morrissey and Ed Harcourt, but also with an intention of its own.
Cherry Ghost's label, Heavenly, is an established stamp of quality, and because their signings have grown less frequent, it is always worth eyeing up new signees. This is particularly true of those that have been allowed time to develop, a trajectory Cherry Ghost share with Fiction Record's Elbow. Opener We Sleep on Stones - a haunting murder ballad (is that the phone again?) - is more melodic than expected, while the astonishing fluidity of A Month of Mornings is reminiscent of Coldplay's Don't Panic… had it been written in the dark, by Frank Sinatra. In such ambitious company Black Fang falls flat, a rare occasion of the band trying too hard, but the playlist-baiting Luddite rings of Doves' more pounding moments and, even more sweetly, The Waterboys, as does the liberal declaration of lead single Kissing Strangers.
Although the word classic is heavily overused in reviews, there is a true class to these stately, story-boarded songs. Cherry Ghost have perfectly picked up on the ambition of their debut and this new set points to, if not bright, then stately places ahead.