Three albums in Ultimate Painting have proved that they are not a band who burnt their wick in the short term. Refining their melted horizon vibes over the last two albums, they come fully into their own on Dusk. James Hoare has always been a secret weapon in Veronica Falls’ roster, with a beyond-his-years aesthetic that’s given pathos to his own songs and seen him pair up recently with luminaries like Pete Astor (The Loft, Weather Prophets). Now, along with Jack Cooper, he’s creating a bummer vibe that’s picking up pieces of The La’s, Dios (tell me that “Song For Brian Jones” doesn’t have a bit of “You Got Me All Wrong” in its bones and I’ll call you a liar), The Free Design and Heatmiser. Where they earned their VU fan club card on the first album and traded it in for a Teenage Fanclub badge on the second, they’ve come fully into their own on the third, synthesizing their love of pop both contemporary and on the dour side of the ’60s cannon this time ’round.
They’ve found a bittersweet comfort in pop’s arms, never showy, never overplaying their hand. There are scads of indie bands that will fill you full of bright strum, jangled choruses and twee notions but what’s great about Ultimate Painting’s realization of character is that they know they’re not a bolt of sunshine and they couldn’t care less about your reaction to their vibe. James and Jack have created a constant comedown, a space of perfect sighed bliss and reticence. I’ve been waiting for the band to find this balance, this refinement, and on Dusk they become the band they’ve always threatened to be. They’ve longed to be your resigned exhale into the cold air, the musical equivalent of frosted breath on a November morning, curling ever into the ether. They’ve left in the imperfection of tape hiss, giving the album a feeling of confessional beauty, frayed, but at the same time obviously pored over with a meticulous comb and ordered by two songwriters who have spent years finding their voice. This is the best that Ultimate Painting have presented and its one of the most autumnal records to slide out this year, fully formed and hugging the listener like a friendly shoulder.
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