The third album from The Catenary Wires pushes further towards an overcast folk, but keeps windtorn pop at its heart. The band features members of Heavenly, Tender Trap, and Talulah Gosh, but while they might have the germ of upstart indie their blood, but this album is no simple sluice through indipop fizz. Birling Gap is an album about confronting the complexities of age, the realities of relationships once the spark of infatuation fades, and facing down the political and cultural realities that face us all in the crumble of civilization in the cusp of 2020s. The band do their best to hid the pill inside a mouthful of pudding, though. Embracing multi-layered harmonies and a breeziness that often feels like Nancy & Lee fronting The Mamas and Papas, the band pairs the gravitas of The Go-Betweens with an air that’s pure West Coast pop.
Despite the American breezes that blow into their sound, the band’s lyrics scrape at the scars of English life. Like The Kinks before them, the band embraces the purported English idyll, adopting the personas of crumbling couples, bands with dreams deferred, steadfast seaside travelers, ‘80s single’s night regulars, and hopeless romantics. Birling Gap is able to thread eras without chafing, weaving their ‘60s folk, 80s jangle, and the dark pound of synths together into an arc that feels like a soundtrack to self-exploration. Each song rides the sea change of emotions present in the roots of nostalgia — regret, joy, jadedness, escapism, and somber acceptance. The theme fades from the last notes of the record on Amelia’s refrain of “Can’t things stay the same?” It’s a wistful wish, but even as her plea hits the wind, it’s clear that the band know that things won’t stay the same and that ache deepens the three-minute memories that populate the record.
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