Earlier this year, I Am Kloot's eponymous second album was finally distributed in America—two years after it became a critical favorite in the UK—and stateside indie-pop fans quickly spread the word about the spare, hooky sound and slightly skewed sensibility of singer-songwriter Johnny Bramwell. With a few lines of imagistic poetry and some hushed-but-rhythmic instrumentation, Bramwell is capable of leaving deep impressions. He's clearly one to watch, and now that I Am Kloot's likeable third album Gods And Monsters has hit American record stores not six months after its predecessor, American fans may start campaigning to get the band's 2001 debut album Natural History a domestic release as well. These guys are too significant to be hidden away in the import bin.
Though on the whole, Gods And Monsters is a lesser record than I Am Kloot, what it lacks in great songs, it gains in stylistic advancement. The new record sounds louder and more clattering than I Am Kloot's previous work, as evidenced by the driving album-opener "No Direction Home," with its noisy guitars and percussive piano stings. Bramwell gets a fuller emotional range out of the added sound. A little woozy carnival organ gives the title track maximum spookiness in minimal space, while the humming bass and handclaps on "Over My Shoulder" matches the song's carefree attitude. And even though tracks like "An Ordinary Girl" and "Strange Without You" sound too sketchy and sloppy, Bramwell counters them with the meditative quietude of "Astray" and "Hong Kong Lullaby." Gods And Monsters' clear highlight is "The Stars Look Familiar," which is classic I Am Kloot. Bramwell's tossed-off-but-in-tune vocal weaves between his punchy melody and counter-melody, and though there doesn't appear to be much going on, it doesn't take many strokes to paint a perfect picture.