In a recent interview Irish guitarist/songwriter Sean O’Hagan noted that his band’s new album “Is a colourful record that has a spring feel at the start and an early spring evening feel at the end. There is reference to the pink evening sky.” While merely describing something obscurely aesthetic – without any reference to the actual sound of the album – he was definitely employing that while music is all sound, it never needs to be purely about that. With The High Llamas, O’Hagan has proven that music feels and can also carry emotion and soul without ever wondering what type of music it really ever is.
It’s part of the reason why many proclaim the London-based group to a carry a singular genre, their own specific style of music that is for some, ‘timeless.’ And it’s also probably one of the significant reasons why the band is nearing a two-decade partnership. Rather than solely focusing on styles, the band shifts through both modern and retro tapestry that encompasses rich influences and massively lush orchestration on their latest album, Talahomi Way. While the shapes of the sounds always seem to carry a nod to Brazilian bossa nova by way of Brian Wilson’s wall of sound, O’Hagan sprinkles the music with a necessary blend of rich overtones and pop sensibilities. While many songs traverse into a heady experience, Grizzly Bear-like songs like “Take My Hand” highlight the early spring feel in the aforementioned quote. And even on a song like “The Ring of Gold,” with its plaintive feel and wistful strings reminds more of modern-day Paul McCartney than of the 60s vibes The High Llamas are known for.
As the album continues to roll on, the sounds continue to share a good sense of composure in combining the elder styles with a sharp take on the sounds of night. “Fly Baby, Fly” is supported by an organ-based melody and more of the retro space that is this time occupied by melting horns and The Beach Boys’ reflective modes. By the time you get to the closing swoon of “Calling Up, Ringing Down,” and its almost melancholy tones, you realize that the spring day is ending. In many ways, the album’s travelling style is almost too predictable in the manner the interludes serve as small transitions and how the realization is evidently known but it’s also very well done. The space of sounds and the spectrum is still very well-received and The High Llamas definitely rise above.
And in the end, music is still however you want to personally receive it. Listening to the opening treatments on “Berry Adams” definitely seems to recall the pink evening sky when listening to the glistening keyboard and chugging bass line. I’m sure that O’Hagan realizes that his band has made a name for itself in being able to almost take the listener away for an entire album of music. The experience is definitely a good one and a huge reason why Talahomi Way is a success because of it.