Album: Joseph Arthur

Our Shadows Will Remain, VECTOR
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The Independent Culture

If there's too little to hold one's attention on the new Röyksopp album, the opposite is probably true of Joseph Arthur's latest offering, on which his songs come swaddled in such dense, velvet folds of music they run the risk of being fatally smothered. It's a problem that's bedevilled all four of his albums since Big City Secrets six years ago – as has the interest in alienation and failure which pervades Our Shadows Will Remain, reaching some sort of apogee on the concluding "Leave Us Alone", where the solipsistic aversion is taken to suicidal lengths. Before that, Arthur does his best to separate from society, straining to "get away from everybody else" in "Puppets", needing to "find a place to cry" in "Wasted", and reflecting how "I used to have a heart, now I guess it's just a stone" in "Even Tho". He plumbs the depths of failure in "Devil's Broom", finding himself "Waking up in the sun face down on the pavement/ Everything I own in a garbage bag". But there's little hope of him figuring a musical way out, given the sense of claustrophobia imposed by the thick layers of guitars and keyboards that are draped around the songs' sluggish rhythms. The brightest shaft of light comes in the acoustic ballad "Echo Park", which also features the album's most agreeable image: "A fire never understands the spark/ The way it is with you and me".

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