Having made their mark with the immediate thrills and spills of their debut, 2013's sparky Absolute Zero, Dublin quintet Little Green Cars have emerged from the maelstrom into which it hurled them older, wiser, sadder and yet somehow exhilarated.
Schoolfriends and bandmates since they were 15 (they're only just past 20 now), there must have been something solid between them not only to survive playing all over the world, including six US tours in three years, but also to stick together as guitarist Adam O'Regan lost his father and singer Stevie Appleby his beloved grandmother.
Add the usual slings and arrows of being that age - crises of confidence, relationship joy and heartbreak, loss, discovery, you name it you feel it - and it's clear why this second album sounds the way it does. It fizzes and pops with ideas, so much so you get the sense the band are surprising themselves in places.
It's the sound of a band that is maturing fast, but able to savour the sensations of doing so. Their music articulates growth, making sense of feelings with sound; their lyrics give vent to the intensity if it all.
In short, it's a hell of a record.
If you've had an ear cocked for the last couple of months you've probably heard the beautifully measured epic intentions of lead single The Song They Play Every Night with its audacious (and successful) attempt to represent the strangeness of being in a successful band to people who aren't. In lesser hands anyone other than their greatest fans and immediate family wouldn't give a monkey's about what it feels like to be in a band that's doing well, but this delicately reverberating strum about alienation and distance sounds like a mordant classic from the outset.
And it's in good company - Easier Day delivers dramatic cascading guitar trills and a consummately commanding vocal from Faye O'Rourke in what could very well be one of the tracks of the year. Elsewhere, anthemic album closer The Factory finds the band reminding each other they've survived as they push through to what lies beyond. It's a supremely confident stance for a band on its sophomore release.
Musically there's lots of the contemporary folk/nextgen Americana with which they made their name, but it's more complex these days, subtler, somehow bigger. Faye's unaccompanied vocal intro to Easier Day gives way to a boomy guitar arpeggio and another even more Marr-velous fill underpinned by cymbal crashes and understated keys. Those looking for comparisons might spot elements of Arcade Fire, The Cure, Fanfarlo, but none of those are going to help pin this record down.
Best approach with open ears and prepare to fall in the deep end.
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