The perfect title for a summer holiday album, and yet Postcards is rather like experiencing a truly British vacation – gloriously sunny periods countered by a day of torrential rain, the sort that drives you indoors to play tiddlywinks.
When it comes to Daniel Wylie’s allegiance, however, a telling reference appears on the back cover in the form of a San Francisco postmark. California then continues to exert a considerable hold on the Scotsman’s brand of harmonic pop, particularly the jangly West Coast sound of the 1960s.
Signs of change are afoot, however. For the opening two tracks Wylie looks closer to home, and the groovy sound of Hacienda-era Manchester. This lends bluster to the open air feel of Time Was and The Shape I’m In, where Wylie strains for the high notes. In case you were missing the more intimate approach of last year’s fine album Ramshackle Beauty, Wylie returns to this format for a track of the same name, previously used as a B-side.
One lyric in particular stands out, a plaintive voice singing, “time stretches across your life and leaves ugly lines that you wanna hide”. This is the singer’s seldom-glimpsed dark side, and it reappears at pertinent moments – the bittersweet The Cello Player, and the strange howl of pseudo-rage that closes Love, Love, Love, the most difficult song to work out. As the album closes, however, Wylie is back to bright and breezy with the winsome A Song For The Lonely, everything done and dusted in little over half an hour.
Postcards is essentially a release tying up the loose ends on this stage of Wylie’s career – he has already admitted the focus is on the next record. For this we are promised an album of Americana, a lo-fi departure from the current approach.
It will be interesting to note if he chooses to ditch the sunshine harmonies that play such an important part in his music and have won him a good few admirers. Now the electric guitar threatens to take over, more than at any other point in his career, with the front man sounding more confident in his delivery over the beefed-up sound.
A collection of disparate elements, Postcards makes a restless whole, something under the surface suggesting a darker personality threatening to expose itself, an aspect not seen on Ramshackle Beauty. Like that album, however, it is curiously satisfying, with the undercurrent serving to add to Daniel Wylie’s intrigue, hinting at an even more fruitful period of songwriting to come.