To denote a second album as sounding more polished than the first always feels like damning its makers with faint praise. A bit of a head patting, yes, good, yes bravo. You’ve been doing this for so long now, and oh my, how you’ve grown. And yet, it does feel appropriate with 2:54‘s The Other I.
It is a bit more well done, or at least done well. Those glistening peaks that Hannah Thurlow’s guitar climbs, the cut-glass, windswept stoicism of sister Colette’s voice, they’re still here and they’re still massively appealing. The things which made the self-titled debut shine are still present. It’s just that here they are a little more shiny.
So there are vast, shimmering expenses, deep, cavernous and punctuated with delicately picked fretwork (Orion). There are songs which wrap around you like quicksand (Blindfold) and lots of stylishly atmospheric darkness – not least in The Cure-like guitar chime of No Better Prize.
There’s no doubt they get plenty of mileage out of it. None of the aforementioned tracks lack poise or presence and in the ebb and flow of Sleepwalker, the song curling and contouring between jittering tension and throbbing, measured assurance moment by moment, they produce something which is actually pretty magnificent.
But whereas the debut always understood that moments of atmosphere are best balanced with moments where you go for the throat, if for no other reason than it keeps the person on the other side engaged, here there’s a much stronger sense of restraint. It isn’t really until Crest that Thurlow’s past in punk bands appears anything other than a passing phase.
Which means it isn’t a surprise to pick it as one of the best moments on The Other I. But what probably is a surprise is that the other best moments on the album are all songs which do divert from what may have been expected.
Tender Shoots may be slight, but there’s something very beautiful, almost beatific about its choral solemnity, while there’s a lovely diversion into folkiness with The Monaco: a campfire lament underpinned by the sort of finger-picked acoustic melody that leaves you sighing in wistful admiration. Even more impressive is Raptor, which adds a bunch of doomy synths and electronic pulses to climax the song (and the album) in throbbing, pulsating fashion.
But in the space between that, the sense of nice atmosphere but not enough teeth prevails. As a follow-up The Other I is actually pretty deft at avoiding the majority of perils which often befall a second release. It nicely expands on what that first album offered. Yet, somehow it doesn’t quite thrill in the same way the debut did. More polished and yet somehow less exciting. Nonetheless, The Other I is an album which offers plenty of eerie, shadowy pleasure.