Album: Idlewild, Post Electric Blues (Cooking Vinyl)

Roddy Woomble's various side-projects, along with the diminishing returns of the group's last few albums, led to rumours that Idlewild were on the verge of splitting up.

Those rumours are well rebuffed by the splendid Post Electric Blues, which isn't so much a return to form as an ascent to a higher plane than they've previously occupied. Compared to the punky parochialism of their youthful work, there's a more expansive, global attitude to these songs, mapped out in the opening "Younger Than America", where over the strident chiming of guitars and violin, Woomble frets over "inherit[ing] a vision and a language all worn out". Ironically, their response to this inheritance is the adoption of a more American sound, with the single "Readers & Writers" borne along on anthemic Springsteen-style bombast, its stadium-sized riff flecked with Spector-esque glockenspiel details. The dominant influence, though, is R.E.M., whose blend of intimacy, intelligence and imaginative vocal arrangements is echoed in "City Hall", "Bring You Back To Life" and "Dreams Of Nothing". Even better is the wistful piano ballad "Take Me Back To The Islands", whose most telling lyric – "There are times to act, and times to stand back, and times to show what's needed to rely on" – could be the album's guiding principle.

Download this Take Me Back To The Islands, Readers & Writers, Dreams Of Nothing, City Hall