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Album Review
Chant Darling

Chant Darling
by Lawrence Arabia

Honorary Bedouin Records

Review Date
9th June 2009
Reviewed by
Paul Gallagher

I have to apologize for my tardiness - I have been sitting on my review of this record for weeks, listening and listening to it again and again in an attempt to discover exactly how to express exactly just how much I like this record.

James Milne aka Lawrence Arabia has over the last few years built for himself an impressive musical reputation as a some-time member of the Brunettes, the dominant force of the Reduction Agents and touring mate of indie super acts such as Feist and Okkervil River. He released during 2006 his self titled debut 'Lawrence Arabia' and the Reduction Agents' 'The Dance Reduction Agents' in a night of blistering and glittering indie pop wonderment at the now defunct Schooner Tavern that I remember fondly for the rents and tears of theatre seats, soft lighting, musty smells and broodingly large bottles of ale. And then, after being a firm fixture amongst shows across Auckland's music scene he joined a throng of musicians to take their wares overseas, joining Connan Mockasin and Liam Finn in England to wile away their days chasing successes and, darn it, bloody good times.

And after three years he now returns with 'Chant Darling', an album recorded over months spent in Sweden, England and New Zealand. And he has had friends to record with! Members of Betchadupa, the Phoenix Foundation, the Sneaks, Cassette, Mestar, Dictaphone Blues, and Liam Finn's tour buddy Eliza-Jane Barnes all appear lending their musicianship to the warmth of sound that emerges as the tracks of this album are played from start to finish. The tracks 'The Beautiful Young Crew' and 'Apple Pie Bed' (penned with one Luke Buda) have been the darlings of the bNet radio network and for obvious reasons - they are incredibly well written and weighted pop songs that are evidence of the unique talent that is Lawrence Arabia. There is tongue-in-cheek commentary throughout the album, on topics as wide reaching as schoolboy crushes on teachers, the sexual frustrations of the 'cool' kids in the Shoreditch 'scene', absent minded actions resulting from drunken debauchery and even a parable-of-sorts on the trysts within the streets of inner Auckland. There are sublime melodies, rosy pop harmonies, well-placed high octaves when deemed necessary, swirling guitar twangs and above all else an earnest, honest lyrical jaunt that sets this album apart from many recent releases.

There are many strengths on this album - other than the already mentioned tracks, the shoe-gazey 'The Crew of the Commodore', 'Fine Old Friends' and 'Auckland CBD Part Two' are all notable key listens. These are songs of floating pop vocals, crooning lyrical charm and doubtless wit. What James Milne has in his favour is his ability as a wordsmith and his obvious talent at telling his tales. And his ability to get such talented friends onside to appear with him on this record is just another feather in his cap.

Lining up beside the Dear Times Waste EP and the Wilberforces works, Lawrence Arabia's 'Chant Darling' will undoubtedly be one of the best local releases of 2009.

If this is the foreshadowing of James Milne's future, then there is much to look forward to!


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