Waiting for an album to come out, especially one where the trailing singles have done their job, whetted your musical appetite and built up your expectations, can be a fraught business. There are always lots of questions raised about the relationship of the advanced singles to the album. Are they representative of the album as a whole. Are these the best tracks to be found on an album of otherwise more modest content? Are these the killer to the albums filler? Questions, questions.
Exotic Quixotic comes front-loaded with the two recent singles, the frantic folk and Waterboys-meets-T-Rex vibe of Soul Deranium and the gentle and heart-aching ballad that is Never Less Than Lonely. Once you get past that you are in new territory and the real test begins. The fact that this double-barrelled opening salvo is made up of two songs that are very different from each other is a neat trick, indicating straight away that the sonic spectrum from which Lusitanian Ghosts weave their songs is very broad indeed.
And that is the joy of the album, it’s eclecticism. The title track wanders into Nick Cave territory or perhaps Bowie’s more experimental paths, dark and delicious, shot through with strands of spoken word and imploring vocals, spacious music over sparse beats. For The Wicked is anthemic and chiming and Living One Life (Just Ain’t Enough These Days) reminds me of Lloyd Cole and The Commotions…which I was not expecting at all!
Lisbon Calling is what happens when a rootsy, folk and roll band goes on a rockabilly, swamp blues, sonic sojourn and She Couldn’t Jump is built from spiralling acoustic riffs and driving beats, layered folk instruments out rocking rock and roll.
And lyrically too, there is a lot going on here, torch songs and celebrations, sing-alongs and emotive ballads, songs to spill beer to, songs to shed tears to, and everything in between.
It is perhaps not what I was expecting but only because it is better than I was expecting, and I was expecting something a bit special anyway. I thought things would be interesting, I hoped that the songs would be good, the teaser singles had set the bar high, I just didn’t expect the album to be this great. (Sorry, I should have had faith.)
One of the best things to land on my desk in recent months? Definitely. Album of the year? Probably!