Sons & Daughters - This Gift
I must admit their acclaimed Repulsion Box album escaped my attention. Upon hearing the new album from Scots' Sons & Daughters, I imagine my year will feature me picking up the predecessor at some point. Apparently (and I wouldn't know, in my ignorance), they've swapped the desolate and dark tones of that record for something with a bit more mainstream appeal, and yet without trading one ounce on their obvious indie cred.
How does one do that, you ask? Well, go sixties. Everybody's doing it - heck, Duffy is primed to be one of this year's biggest stars and she's a throwback to the days of Dusty Springfield. Well, Sons & Daughters are primarily a rock'n'roll band, albeit one that incorporates both folk and punk edges. Surely, adding Phil Spector bells and whistles, on top of choruses in debt to The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las, won't harm a broth that's already full of flavour? In this case, the added nostalgic tint makes This Gift true to its title.
The biggest draw the band offers is lead singer Adele, whose sassy delivery is sometimes broken by an endearing Scottish twang and always carries the songs to their exciting conclusions. On many of the more upbeat tracks here, such as Rebel With the Ghost, she evokes Debbie Harry, adding a seventies glamour to the amalgamation. Although she may rival Jenny Lewis as a frontwoman who has cleverly gone retro, Adele's smarts are on par with the band's overall vision.
There are songs here that will have gig attendees dancing with glee, and yet the lyrics are still downbeat; Darling, based on the Julie Christie film of the same name, is soaked with regret while the 'accident' at the centre of Split Lip's narrative is inevitably grim, even though we're never entirely sure what the nature of it is. Perhaps it's Bernard Butler's polished production that allows the elements to co-exist without falling in on each other. Either way, one can take no note of the lyrics and enjoy a rollicking good album or listen to those lyrics and discover a possible murderess, but one that parties once her hit has been carried out. As a bonus, one senses that this is a record with an enduring quality whose songs will only improve in a live forum and with each repeat listen. Props to the title track as well, featuring a slightly indulgent but fun sing-off between Adele and guitarist Scott that acts as intro, outro and middle-eight. The black sheep of the family should take note of Sons & Daughters' leading example.