Album Reviews

The Shaky Hands – Lunglight

(Memphis Industries) UK release date: 26 January 2009

This is the second album, after 2007’s eponymous debut, from The Shaky Hands.The band come from Portland, Oregon: that peculiarly fertile breeding groundfor bands of a certain indie/alt-rock persuasion or ethos. And in suchcompany as fellow Portlandites The Shins, Modest Mouse, The Decemberists andElliot Smith etc etc, they don’t seem out of place.

Look beyond, however, the obvious tropes of “jangling guitar” (Air BetterCome), “interesting variety of percussion” (Love All Of) and “slightlybluesy feel” (Loosen Up, Wake The Breathing Light) and a more interestingalbum, and band, begins to emerge. Many of the tracks here have a prettydark slant to them, with imagery that belies the lightheartedness of themusic.

If you take a fairly random sample of lyrics used, like “We areliving in war time / In my head and outside” (from Loosen Up); “Everyone islost” (Neighbors); “I breathe what others breathe / But I don’t feel thesame” (No Say); “I’ve been abused / So I’m living in hate” (Show Me YourLife), a really pretty bleak picture of alienation and despair appears.

This is an album with a curious atmosphere and charm of its own, which isin part thanks to Nicholas Delff’s vocal delivery, which ispitched somewhere between a more-tuneful Dylan and a world-weary JulianCasablancas. His voice works particularly well on Show Me Your Life – oneof the album highlights, which weaves a tale of a born cynic takingtentative steps to lose the attitude and start up a relationship or at leastmake a connection with a potential lover (“It was only a date / Just likeothers do”).

Another distinctive feature used on several occasions is asort of mantra-like repetition, sometimes accompanied by eastern-styledrones (A New Parade, Air Better Come, Love All Of), which offsets the morestraightforward and expected guitar/bass/drum and occasional pianostylings.

It’s the more downbeat, minor-key tracks thatwere the least successful, with World’s Gone Mad and No Say in particularmaking the pace of the album drag rather in the middle. Those with a moreperky, fast-paced feel like Loosen Up, the lovely We Are Young, You’re TheLight, Show Me Your Life and the almost singalong album closer Oh No weremore successful. Fortunately, these outnumbered the slower tracks; overall Lunglight is an enjoyable release.

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