The Jayhawks deserve legendary status. Their fusion of alt. Country, power pop and laid back sing-a-longs has been delighting fans for 31 years now. Paging Mr Proust is their 9th studio album and first since 2011’s Mockingbird Time. For this release, the band return to their classic line-up of Gary Louris, Marc Perlman, Tim O’Reagan and Karen Grotberg. The album is produced by none other than REM's Peter Buck.
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The opening ‘Quiet Corners and Empty Spaces’ is a jangling 12 string delight with a verse courtesy of the Byrds and a chorus taped from R.E.M. Absolutely wonderful. You can keep your footwork for the time being, I’m rolling around in a duvet of majestic harmonies. For me the Jayhawks have been one of those bands who do have the odd great song but across an album I have tended to lose interest. Pretty quickly here, they try to derail my interest with the distorted bluesy ‘Lost In The Summer’ but regain their footing with ‘Lovers of the Sun’ which is gentle and laid back as the title suggests with some delicious female backing vocals. The songwriting is good, if not spectacular but this sound, oh! this sound. If you like the Pernice Brothers you’ll know what I’m talking about.
It’s the upbeat/mid paced tracks that are impressing me here, with more listens slow burners like ‘Pretty Roses in Your Hair’ might shoot through but for the moment there are a clutch of utterly lovely country rock songs here to enjoy. ‘Isabel’s Daughter’ is particularly impressive with a gorgeous up and down melody and is that Peter Buck's 12 string twanging along? With Tucker Martine also at the helm the album sounds absolutely brilliant but as with all Jayhawks it’s in and out in terms of quality, a band that can write songs as great as the gorgeously atmospheric ‘Comeback Kids’ just don’t need to subject us to bluesy jams elsewhere. There are some wonderful thrilling moments between though from this veteran band of US jangle pop fans.
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