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The Clientele: Bonfires On The Heath


The Clientele

Album: Bonfires On The Heath
Label: Merge

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It’s awfully apt of The Clientele to release its LP Bonfires On The Heath in October, since the record has the feel of falling leaves, fading light, and the distant smell of smoke. But isn’t that always true of The Clientele? Bonfires On The Heath continues one of the most remarkable winning streaks in alt-pop, in which each Clientele album has sounded like a welcome refinement of what came before. Stylistically, the only noticeable difference on Bonfires is the addition of brassy horns to several tracks, giving the band’s wistful, deeply British ballads a tinge of Spanish flavor, like the fading memory of a seaside vacation. The album-opening “I Wonder Who We Are” sets a tone with its funk-lite guitar and peppy “ba-ba-ba”s, and then the title track offers a counter, via syrupy slide guitar and a faintly psychedelic haze. Bonfires continues this push-and-pull, balancing the energetic and the lethargic, all linked by Alasdair MacLean’s breathy voice and his litany of things recalled. But this time out, MacLean looks forward almost as much as he looks back. When he coos the line, “The swallows fly in from nowhere / I never saw them before,” he sounds genuinely enchanted. Winter may be coming, but only as a prelude to spring.