Last Harbour – Lights

Last Harbour - Lights

Given their involvement in other musical operations (brave timbers, Anna Kashfi, Samson & Delilah), demanding day-jobs (including running Little Red Rabbit Records) and geographical dispersal, it’s somewhat remarkable that the members of Last Harbour continue to be so prolific and committed over ten years down the line.  It’s also gratifying that the band’s attention to craftsmanship continues to embolden with each release.  Admittedly though, the group’s dark muse isn’t open to everyone and at times a full-length Last Harbour LP can be intimidating to those with a passing interest or unconfirmed affection.  Thus, the ensemble is often best introduced through the EPs and mini-albums that have dispersed themselves in the Last Harbour discography over the years.  In fact, the likes of 2000’s Hidden Songs 7”, 2001’s An Empty Box Is My Heart mini-album and 2005’s October EP have also provided some of the group’s best material to date.  This latest lovingly-packaged mini-album – the 6-track Lights – can also be added to that illustrious and inviting list of Last Harbour wares.

Connected to last year’s ambitious Volo album, through the inclusion of its last two tracks (“Lights” itself and a remixed “If They’re Right”) and bolstered by four brand new tracks, the mini-LP captures Last Harbour’s distinct line in baroque rustic noire in a sustained subtle and serene mood; favouring melancholy over melodrama.  So whilst the opening title-track does reach a near-climatic crescendo, it doesn’t totally force itself upon us, leaving open inviting spaces for the ensuing songs to nuzzle inside warmly.  Hence, the alluring “Alone For The Winter” goes for an earthy simplicity worthy of Willard Grant Conspiracy’s most big-hearted moments, with also perhaps a hint of Neil Young at his most contented and countrified.  The fresh and possibly superior mix of “If They’re Right” follows with plaintive prettiness moving into restless discomfort and then back again.  The second triumvirate of tracks burrow even deeper into bittersweet beauty and invention; with “Boy In The Photograph” and “Animals Once More” being particularly blessed by Sarah Kemp’s intuitive violin-playing and “Be Happy Tonight” adding trailing ambient layers that provide an atypical sense of bliss, that extends into the backwards vocals and piano twinkling of the super-short hidden track which closes proceedings.

On the basis of this sterling 6-track suite, perhaps Last Harbour should even consider skipping the next few albums and go straight to the ‘what-would-have-been-in-between’ releases.  Whilst this might not be the most cost-effective and marketable means of releasing music, the self-proclaimed collective might eventually cut a mid-length shot of magic on par with the Palace Songs’ Hope, Neko Case’s Canadian Amp or Iron & Wine’s Woman King. Whilst they mull over what comes to follow though, this will more than suffice as an interlude collection.

Little Red Rabbit Records

Last HarbourIf They’re Right (J.T. Mix)