Kid Canaveral’s debut was one of the more pleasant surprises of 2010. Giddy and maniacally catchy it may have been, Shouting at Wildlife‘s true staying power nonetheless came not from its hooks, but from tracks like “And Another Thing!!” which seemed to realize something most bands never do: music doesn’t have to be soft or slow in order to be beautiful.
That’s a trick the Scottish quartet comes close to perfecting on their sophomore effort, Now That You Are A Dancer. At first blush, the band’s sound hasn’t evolved tremendously. Sure, there’s a little more production sheen, and there’s genre dabbing here and there, like the electronic touches that worm their way through “Skeletons.” But the whirlwind tempos and instantly memorable hooks that made Shouting at Wildlife such a blast are still present: numbers like the hilariously titled “Breaking Up Is The New Getting Married” and “Without A Backing Track” could easily fit in with the band’s earlier repertoire. What has evolved is the band’s sense of melody. David MacGregor’s discovery of his falsetto has done wonders for his songwriting, allowing his vocal lines to expand and elongate past his regular range. The resulting tunes are often breathtakingly beautiful, and fleshed out by nice touches from the rest of the band: doubling from the guitar on “Who’s Looking At You, Anyway?” or subtly effective harmonizations (something shied away from on Shouting at Wildlife).
Now That You Are A Dancer isn’t perfect. “A Compromise,” for example, flips the concept of a slow burn and instead goes for something closer to a slow decay, starting out with a blaze of noise and then gradually fading out the vocals, then the drums, then the guitars. It’s an intriguing experiment, but one that perhaps works better in theory than in concept, partially because the sledgehammer guitars decidedly lack a hook, and partially because there’s no good reason to stretch it to a full eight minutes. It’s a good marker of the band’s ambition, though, and the song’s far from a waste, thanks – again – to MacGregor’s earworm of a vocal. And the example extends to the entire album. These songs have flaws, sure, but they also all have at least a handful of unexpectedly dazzling moments, where the arrangement or the melody strike out in a beautiful, left-field direction. Far from diminishing the power of those moments, the album’s imperfections actually make them all the more striking. And when there are songs where the band does get everything right – such as the stunning opener “The Wrench” – well, they gleam like diamonds.
Track picks: “The Wrench,” “Who’s Looking At You, Anyway?” “Low Winter Sun”