The Sparrow

Lawrence Arabia

Bella Union Records, 2012

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


James Milne wears many hats. He is part of the international sensation The Reduction Agents, and he also occasionally plays bass for indie superstars Okkervil River. Additionally, he writes music for film and theater and somehow manages to put out records under his solo moniker, Lawrence Arabia. His work has been highly regarded in his home country of New Zealand, and now that he's become aligned with famed indie label Bella Union, his esteemed brand of indie pop is finding more ears than ever. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Shifting gears from the harmonic, timeless pop song craft of his earlier solo work, The Sparrow finds Milne taking time and space into account, drawing from a more minimalist and aching approach. It's a highly mature offering, full of lush arrangements and sophisticated beauty, and as always, Milne's witty and intellectual lyrical work is in check.

The opener “Traveling Shoes” is really the only track here that takes nods at Lawrence Arabia's first album. It's a gorgeous song, full of soothing strings, catchy pianos, and universal pop appeal. From there, the ride is ever-changing, often retreating to darker, introspective areas. “Early Kneecapping” takes an art/experimental angle, matching a strong emphasis on piano and drums with a droning-esque vibe, while “The 03” takes a different approach and might be the most defining song here; it’s a back to basics tune that picks up steam toward the end with a full band. Other moments, like “Bicycle Riding,” edge toward orchestral pop with Elliott Smith style bleakness – a tone that comprises much of this listen. It's not entirely a serious affair though; “The Bisexual” will definitely make you smile with its upbeat tempo and playful wordplay.

While nothing here is probably going to find its way to commercial success, those who appreciate moody, melancholic, and thoughtful songwriting will appreciate The Sparrow. A highly mature mix of orchestral, chamber, and indie pop with an emphasis on strings and delicate textures, this is another compelling listen  from New Zealand's best kept secret.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2012 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Bella Union Records, and is used for informational purposes only.