The Essex Green
Although some will probably chide me for saying so, I would like to say that The Essex Green will be the cure for those still hoping that Belle And Sebastian will make a comeback. While the two groups by no means sound alike, there are enough things in common with the two that those lamenting the lack of output by the former group should just go ahead and hop on board with the latter. This trio will take care of you big time. I haven't heard an album so delightfully twee in quite some time before I popped in The Long Goodbye, and I don't mean that to sound like a bad thing. In 12 songs and just under 40 minutes, this album has enough vocal and instrumental hooks to keep you singing along with it on repeat.
Heck, "By The Sea" opens up with some nice guitar/organ interplay before a little flute (yes, flute!) melody leads into the light vocals of Sasha Bell. It's all very light and bubbly, but not in an overly sappy way. If that doesn't win you over, the group pulls off some three-part vocal harmonies over dueling guitars on "The Late Great Cassiopia" and again the group kicks you back a couple decades with their influences without managing to come out sounding quite as sacarin as any of them (although they do have handclaps in the song).
Who am I kidding, though? It's just creeping into spring and early summer in most parts of the country, and The Long Goodbye is a great little disc to spin as the nights slowly get longer and the tops and windows go down on cars. "Lazy May" mixes a fun country twang alongside more two-part vocal harmonies, and the guitar solo and ensuing bridge feels like a weird nod to "Devil Went Down To Georgia." They wisely slow things down in places, but invoke a warm touch of nostagia each time. "Julia" makes you feel like you should be dancing without touching your partner at a 50's prom (and again with the flute!), while "Whetherman" tosses in some piano and a playful bit of Bacharach.
Like Belle And Sebastian, one of the main weaknesses of the group is that they're just to darn precious at times for their own good. "The Boo Hoo Boy" is a goofy little string-synth doused number that waltzes along somewhat awkwardly until the grand climax while "Old Dominion" tosses in not only a banjo and chimes, but wordless childs-hour vocals, an accordian, and what might be a flugelhorn. It's about as sticky as they come, but doesn't ramble for too long before letting Bell drop her best vocal duties on "Sunny River." If you don't like the twee, steer clear of this release, but if it's your thing, this might possibly be your new favorite group.