Lawrence Arabia’s star is swiftly rising, he’s talented and a New Zealand export; a rarity in the last case. James Milne’s second album Chant Darling, follows his 2007 self-titled debut but certainly doesn’t lag behind it; ten new uniformly charming and mostly brilliant tracks will cement his image as favourite NZ expat for many.
Opener ‘Look Like A Fool’ begins with an honest tale of (you guessed it) looking silly in front of a nice girl; Milne’s accent sounding somehow Beatles-esque. As the initially melancholy instrumentation swells behind these earnest vocals, Chant Darling’s signature sound becomes quickly apparent; gorgeous strings dictate subtle mood shifts and the clever vocal/guitar harmonies are wonderfully warm and full.
By third track ‘Apple Pie Bed’, a lightly overdriven guitar line and gleeful falsetto harmonies have made their welcome introductions and a plethora of 60s/70s pop influences suggest themselves but don’t overwhelm. As the album progresses though, the delightful realization that every track has some kind of signature, stand out element or passage will rapidly dawn on you, as will the innocent, extravagant, quirky genius of it all.
Indeed, this is not music to brood or plot to; it’s a consistently fun semi-homage to classic pop nuggets as seen through a lightly tinted psych lens buoyed by some pleasingly original ideas. To suggest it’s tongue-in-cheek would be a disservice but a dramatic or cathartic LP this certainly isn’t, and it knows it (to its credit). So long as you’re prepared to end this record in a blissful good mood then you won’t begrudge Lawrence Arabia his whimsy, and whilst you might not feel like singing his praises you’re certainly apt to chant them.