London outfit The Hanging Stars’ second album follows the much-heralded 2016 debut Over The Silvery Lake, a collection spanning Americana, psych-folk and country. Songs For Somewhere Else operates within the same vein but their universe is expanding, with the widening spectrum of their output no doubt influenced by two new members plus contributions from many collaborators.
Recorded at Bark Studios, Walthamstow, the band cover themes including “the fear of pain, death and failure”. Laid back lead single Honey Water encapsulates the overall mood of the record, its sugary chorus divine whilst an upbeat, summery vibe adorns both slide guitar/jingle-jangle dominated opener On A Sweet Summers Day and Pick Up The Pieces, the latter conjuring visions of carefree frolicking in a country meadow.
The country element comes to the fore regularly: twanging guitars and intricate finger picking drive For You My Blue Eyed Son, neatly showcasing the talents on offer. The excellent Hold Out Your Hand boasts delightful harmonica but conversely, instrumental Djupsjoen bores and the saxophone whines of Too Many Wired Hours do little to excite.
Oddball Mean Old Man opens with whistling, playing out like a sea shanty performed in a Wild West bar and How I Got This Way, whilst providing another highlight, echoes the past too closely as opening bars recall Oasis’ Half The World Away before morphing into an echo of Badly Drawn Boy’s Something To Talk About (from the About A Boy soundtrack). The less intense, more minimalist closer Water Song, though, comes up short once again, leaving a sense of unfulfilled promise from the album as a whole.
As their focus widens, you sense that the diversifying in all directions is watering down their core. When concentrating their efforts on their undoubted strengths, however, the glimmer of much promise remains. Are they yet aware of what or who they are and where they want to be? Time to find out, perhaps.