On his stateside debut, James Milne (aka Lawrence Arabia) takes inspiration from soft and sunny 60’s inspired pop. Chant Darling plays more like an inventory of Milne’s influences rather than an exploration of them and feels tiresome at times because of it; however, this approach does lead to a very pretty album with the occasional catchy tune.
The album hits its peak early on with “Apple Pie Bed,” a song that’s nearly irresistible. The falsetto harmonies in the chorus bring to mind Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, although Milne doesn’t approach Valli’s vocal range. This is followed by Chant Darling’s most unique track “Auckland CBD,” a gentle and short calypso shuffle with some lovely muted trumpet.
The middle of the album really drags. Milne uses repetitive lines beginning in “The Beautiful Young Crew” and on through “Fine Old Friends” that aren’t very musically or lyrically interesting. He settles into the bright, hazy sound a little too much. Luckily, the “do do do” vocal intro and steel guitar of “I’ve Smoked Too Much” will prevent ears from completely glazing over just in time to hear the gorgeous harmonies that make up the sparse closer “Dream Teacher.”
While overall the album is an easy listen thanks to familiar sounds, Milne has played with Okkervil River, The Ruby Suns and The Brunettes and it would be nice to hear him incorporate some of those modern influences to push this album further.
Chant Darling is currently available on the Bella Union record label.