When it comes to recording a second album in good time, Sky Larkin provide inspiration. The Leeds three-piece only released their debut album The Golden Spike early last year; a mere year and a half has gone by and already second record Kaleide is ready to go.
In the meantime they’ve been touring practically non-stop in various support slot roles across the UK, Europe and America as well as headlining their own shows. They certainly couldn’t be accused of being lazy.
Some things don’t change though. Once again, John Goodmanson (whose previous credits include Death Cab For Cutie and fellow labelmates Los Campesinos!) is the producer at the helm, just like on their debut, and the chances are that those who were fans of the band previously will feel an instant wave of familiarity. Rather than go down a completely different path altogether, this feels more like a continuation than a step forward. Given that there aren’t many new tricks, it’s really up to the songs to deliver.
There is a lot more oomph and power propelling the music this time around. Songs like Shade By Shade and Spooktacular are pure bursts of energy that give the impression of a band with a beefed up sound and Still Windmills, the lead-off single, opens the album with even more intent and purpose than before. It’s also just as loud as its predecessor but, despite the fact that amps are turned all the way up to 11, there are shifts in dynamics. Guitars And Antartica and Anjelica Huston reveal a heart buried underneath the overdrive pedals. The most striking song is Smarts, which closes the album as bass and drums – both of which have been heavily filled with effects to make them sound like parts of a machine whirring away – linger in the background.
Yet for all the good moments there is one massive problem. As the record wears on, frustration starts to set in; where are the killer songs? The 12 on offer are all relatively enjoyable and no doubt work impeccably well in a live scenario, but on record there aren’t any particular standouts. To call the result ‘middle of the road’ would be way too harsh, but it does lack a certain spark.
And that’s a pity, for their skills as musicans are obviously much improved and the overall sound is much heavier and meatier than before, but at the same time all of this doesn’t amount to much when you haven’t got the great songs to back it up. Is it an album that was made in a hurry? Arguably not, since the band had road-tested these songs live for a good while prior to the album’s creation. Instead, they’re still a band with huge potential that isn’t yet being completely fulfilled. Kaleide might please die-hards but for the rest it lacks in progression and new ideas.