So, the quite wonderful Hidden Cameras
, Joel Gibbâ€™s Canadian troupe of â€œgay church folk musicâ€ makers, are back with their fifth, and quite possibly finest album yet. Where to start?Well, the first of several remarkable and admirable things about this release is that it sounds like a real album
. By which I mean the flow of tracks, from the impressive, mega-dramatic opener â€˜Ratify The Newâ€™ (sustained long long suspenseful opening note, slowly increasing in volume and gravity with mysterious background half-heard groans and mutters), through the arc of near-perfection of single â€˜In The Naâ€™, â€˜He Falls To Meâ€™ and â€˜Colour Of A Manâ€™, and onwards, well, for the albumâ€™s entire length.Â These are tracks that are simultaneously immediately enjoyable but also worth getting oneâ€™s teeth into, worthy of repeated listens and long inconclusive analyses.Â Although the pace, mood and melodies vary, there is definitely nevertheless a shared atmosphere, aesthetic and feel which means that each track here very much fits together with the others, allowing the sum to add up to even more than the already extremely good constituent parts.This is such
a good album that one is almost loathe to pick it too much to pieces: each listener will have their own treat in store uncovering its charms for themself.Â Here, though, are a few pointers towards aspects that struck me as particularly glorious.- Beautiful songwriting.Â Noteable in particular on â€˜In The Naâ€™, â€˜He Falls To Meâ€™ (see especially the swoonsome bit of melody that accompanies the â€œIn my head / In my bed
â€ couplet), â€˜Colour Of A Manâ€™, â€˜Kingdom Comeâ€™, â€˜The Little Bitâ€™ (nearly a Show Tune, but in a good way) and the melancholy, wistful â€˜Silence Can Be A Headlineâ€™.Â These are all tunes that will stay with you for a long long time.- Gorgeous vocal.Â See all of the above. Gibb is one of those singers that has the wonderful ability to adapt the tone andÂ pitch of his delivery to the songâ€™s content. So he is jaunty on â€˜In The Naâ€™, â€˜Underageâ€™ (of which more later) and â€˜The Little Bitâ€™, but achingly melancholic on â€˜Silence Can Be A Headlineâ€™, and â€˜Colour Of A Manâ€™ - all tuneful vibrato and longing.- Romance and
sex.Â These are songs that have as much heart as they have, err, balls.Â The gay aspect is neither glossed over nor camped up (and there is, of course, no earthly reason why it ought to be either), but love and lust, affection and fucking are all covered in a real, honest, fundamentally grown up
way.Â â€˜Kingdom Comeâ€™ sees the narrator questioning himself about his feelings and impulses: â€œAm I a slave to desire?â€
, he wonders, and, more humorously â€œWill I be lewd to the dude?
â€.Â â€˜Underageâ€™ is the track most likely to cause Shock Horror Controversy but, on balance, it really ought not, suggesting as it does a role play (â€œIâ€™ll pretend youâ€™re seven / You pretend Iâ€™m eight
â€) that is mutual and playful, rather than a paedophiliac fantasy of an adult seducing a child. And this, astonishingly, is set to a perky Lion-Sleeps-Tonight-alike cod-Afrobeat tune. Â Elsewhere the focus falls more on romantic love, like in the yearning â€˜Colour Of A Manâ€™, â€˜He Falls To Meâ€™, â€˜Do I Belongâ€™ (â€œWaking up with you beside me / How can I go wrong?
â€), or â€˜The Little Bitâ€™, with its happy-ever-after aspirations (â€œWe could start a family
â€).- Rich, luscious production.Â The depth of instrumentation (strings, brass, synths, sound effects) combine with the songwriting and singing strengths with a highly polished and crafted finish of depth to frequently euphoric effect.If pressed, I would perhaps point to a small sag in the middle of the album, with â€˜Do I Belongâ€™ (track 5) and â€˜Walk Onâ€™ (track 6) being marginally less enjoyable in isolation than those that surround them on both sides.Â Â It is a testament to this albumâ€™s coherence and strength, though, that they are still very much key elements, whose omission would make the overall piece weaker rather than stronger.This, then, is indeed a fine, fine release. Complex, intelligently constructed yet â€“ as with all the best music â€“ deceptively easy to listen to, admire and outright love
, it has certainly earned its place in as many Best of Year lists as possible and, indeed, in your
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