This is the album # 8 from the Nottingham-based indie rock band -that features vocalist Stuart Staples, keyboardist David Boulter, guitarist Neil Fraser and long-time associate trumpeter Terry Edwards - in an almost twenty years career.
In "Falling Down A Mountain" they are breaking very little new ground: it takes off all jazzy and moody on the self titled opener - fractured percussion gives way to freeform-jazz saxophone and repeated chanting - but things are back to business on "Keep It Beautiful" with the crooner (and he sure is) expressing some hope.
It contains several worthy additions to Tindersticks' canon of hangdog torch balladry, notably the aforementioned "Keep You Beautiful" - sighing, minimal, disarmingly gorgeous -, the Johnny Cash-style Mexicana of "She Rode Me Down", and the tender, piano-heavy ballad and plain perfectly Tindersticks-ish "Factory Girls".
There are also a couple of instrumentals, a habit Tindersticks seem to have acquired from their excursions into film soundtracks (recent outings of this sort have included Claire Denis's "35 Shots of Rum" and the upcoming "White Material", and the accompaniment to a Louis Vuitton collection).
Harmony Round My Table is set at higher pace, handclaps and the joys that he had some extra luck a couple of weeks ago, its just great enjoying someone else's misery, and its even got handclaps, which is always a bonus.
"Hubbard Hills" is a sepulcral, trumpet-led lament, while "Piano Music" exactly what it says it is - a knelling, tinkling, gorgeously soporific confection that sounds, appropriately, like it was purposefully left unburdened by lyrics in anticipation of some closing credits to play behind.
On "She Rode Me", which sounds like the intro to a Spagettti Western, and on Hubbard Hills and Piano Music they're just showing off on how many instruments they can actually play and make sound good together. So, if you like film scores, then you'll love this.
As said before, there's nothing new on this album that will manage to win many new fans. And yet it's probably the least Tindersticks-esque album of their career. The core ingredients are still there: Stuart Staples' polarising, treacle-rich baritone, beautifully haunting string arrangements and the pervading sense of disappointment and loss. However, add to this a willingness to diversify and be imaginative, and Tindersticks are once more extremely deserving of your time.
Tindersticks' music has always been broad in scope with a cinematic feel, but it just seems here that they're maturing into a more well-rounded band.
"It appears Tindersticks have gained a second wind. Forget the press, forget the criticism and forget those who ignore you. When you make an album this good, you don't need to care.
After all, a band who began by expressing twilight ennui have nowhere else to go. It's a sombre thing, but somehow warm with it. Duetting with Mary Margaret O'Hara on the sweet Memphis-soul-flavoured "Peanuts", you could even call Staples an optimist". - Simon Price.
No longer so heavily reliant on the dramatic brooding that characterised much of their early-90s work, with "Falling Down A Mountain" they may have just added another spacious and utterly affecting gem to a very impressive and distiguished career.
The Hungry Saw