I was so wrong about this album initially.
After three listens I almost gave up on it, but thankfully I persevered and now I've got to say it's easily one of my favourites of the year. I guess I was expecting something more akin to Evlkeith's Festive Fifty entry 'Fleeting Moments' which was my introduction to the band. It's such a fantastic song that I just wanted more of the same, and although 'Promises, Promises' comes close, the rest of the album follows a slightly different path.
The songs are gloriously twee in a way that Belle and Sebastian can only dream about and possibly only the Field Mice could even aspire to. Surprisingly, Andy and Emma share vocals equally and at first I was desperate to hear more of Emma and much less of Andy, but how wrong can you be? If anything, the songs where Andy takes the lead are possibly even more enjoyable than Emma's, and when they sing together it's almost Abbaesque in terms of both the beautiful harmonies and unashamed campness.
It's ultimately the songwriting however, that differentiates the album from enjoyable pop music and propels it into the realms of a classic piece of work. These songs are witty, quirky, melodic, profound, crafted and timeless. It's as if Gary Barlow got in touch with his feminine side and signed for Sarah Records, in a good way (if that's possible). Top marks for songwriter Andy Hudson; a job well done.
They're all standout tracks but 'Promises Promises' is the most instantly accessible in an Isabel Campbell era Belle and Sebastian kind of way. Dig deeper however, and 'The Sky at Night' is a keyboard fuelled gem for all of us telescope owners and 'Five Day Forecast' is a jaunty tale where the male/female vocals intertwine perfectly to produce a uniquely agreeable sound. 'End of the Pier' is a minimal melancholy masterpiece, but best of all is 'Harbour Lights', which is a moment of pure magic, combining images of lifeboats, vinyl records and Swing Out Sister, which can only be a good thing.
I can't really be anymore positive than saying this is easily on a par with 'Fold Your Hands Child' or 'Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi'. Pocketbooks will either move onto global domination or they'll be working as primary school teachers within five years, and I can't make up my mind which is more likely, although Andy would definitely not look out of place playing 'I have seen the Golden Sunshine' in assembly.
A great, original and surprising album. Pocketbooks we salute you!