the high llamas: hawaii (1996)

llamas_hawaiiYou have nothing to do. You’re not really bored, you just have that pleasant feeling of all the chores being done, the apartment’s clean, the laundry’s hanging to dry, the plants are watered and the air conditioner is nicely cooling down the room on the year’s hottest day. You have nothing you have to do. Hawaii comes on and wants to play. It too has nothing to do and the two of you are fast becoming best friends. Where have you been all my life? No matter, let’s have a grand old romp. With all the taglines of a true masterpiece, The High Llamas’ third album writes the owner’s manual on glistening, classy and sophisticated music. The listening is easy and oh so soothing with incredible moments of instrumentation taking in strings, horns, electric xylophone and keyboards. With stunning attention to composition, chord and key changes, Sean O’Hagan became a truly gifted songwriter and composer with this album. And how refreshing it is! With grunge having long ago run its course, how fantastic it is to hear something that, dare I say, has some melody? Lilts a little bit? Isn’t afraid to be dismissed as retro cheeseball, feelgood shite? Of course the roots of this kind of thing sprouted up with the the indie kids’ lounge music revival a while back, taking their cues from Esquivel and more modern acts such as The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group and Stereolab, who now and then turn out a pop gem when they’re not trying to bug the heck out of you with their repetitive riff-droning. Are there bound to be other High Llamas following in the footsteps of Brian Wilson and the Beatles who mine more from the good feelings of the 60’s-70’s and classical music than the drugged, abrasive, grooves of acid rock, Hendrix and the Stones? I sure hope so! To focus on particular tracks doesn’t work since this album is a cohesive whole from start to finish, with many an instrumental interlude leading from song to song, which blend into each other. Enjoy the bright sun, have some ice-cold lemonade in a tall, frosty glass, take your shoes off, dangle your toes in the grass and settle in for a long afternoon of having nothing to do. Go ahead and sit out there well into twilight. Come on! It’s a long album. Nice isn’t it? 5 – waterviola

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