Described by some wags as "Get Cape. Wet Self. Cry", Sam Duckworth's pants remain manifestly dry throughout his new album. With Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly (an unwieldy but still charming name... just) he's always managed to define himself outside of the wishy-washy encampment, being just that bit too spiky to succumb to weediness, and circumventing the soggiest and snottiest edges of emo and twee. He's the Jens Lekman you might not easily beat in a pub scrap.
The influences are diverse enough to draw and keep your attention, keeping your brain busy with identification and speculation (always healthy so long as it's not overpowering, or indicative of slavish derivativeness). Duckworth sounds very British but not self-consciously or self-importantly so - his nearest reference point could be the brilliant (if sometimes simpering) Kings of Convenience, but his sound as it has developed owes more to Britpop, and is bouncier and more daring than his previous work. There are effervescent hints of Madchester here and there, and whiffs of early Blur.
Collapsing Cities (with guest spot from Shy FX) is a highlight, with a chorus that begs to be sung along with almost before it's finished. The album is rammed with these insta-hooks. All of This Is Yours (enhanced greatly by Baaba Maal's delicious vocals) has a sneaky Flaming Lips-ish grandeur, switching mood and genre almost from one bar to the next without being overcrowded or showy. It's very confident indeed. Everything is carefully arranged, with just the right little electronic touches, but played with a certain rushing abandon.
Duckworth overstretches his voice sometimes, and it can be distracting - he's not a powerful vocalist, and that's fine providing he doesn't strain out of his own range. He'd do well to relax into it more, a la Wayne Coyne. The songs themselves can hardly be faulted, though.
Choosing to self-title a non-debut album is always an interesting move, suggestive either of having finally found one's true sound, or being arrogant enough to state as much when you're stagnating. We're fairly safe here - Duckworth sounds happy enough in his own musical skin, a quality which almost always makes for a good listen.
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