The first line of Halloween, Alaska's debut album lets you know from the off that you're dealing with literate, articulate types. "Well hello, little hellion, make yourself at home," sings the guitarist James Diers, over the kind of keyboard washes, subtle percussive tints and sophisticated sense of space that bring to mind The Blue Nile. Apart from the comparatively catchy, albeit diffident, "Call It Clear", the tracks move at an unhurried pace, some fading in slowly before settling into stealthy, mostly piano-based, grooves of a downbeat cast. Even Springsteen's "State Trooper" is set to a measured, minimal synth and percussion arrangement, until swaddled by sheets of guitar in its later stages. There's something of the luxuriant melancholy of Mark Eitzel's American Music Club about a track like "Des Moines", which evokes a life suspended in small-town aspic; but Diers' voice is ultimately too undemonstrative to animate the band's own songs adequately: earnest, warm, but rather characterless, it recalls Prefab Sprout's Paddy MacAloon - as good a pointer as any to the band's probable audience.
DOWNLOAD THIS: 'You're It', 'Des Moines', 'Call It Clear'