It's taken them nearly 4 years but Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat have finally delivered a follow-up to their excellent Everything's Getting Older. Called The Most Important Place in the World, the record is out in a matter of weeks via Chemikal Underground.
"Drunken ears can only hear a happy song..."
If Aidan had sung those words in an old Arab Strap song, the effect would have been one of the sort of ironic despair a night "on the drink" would offer. Here, with the piano of Bill Wells, presumably, behind the vocals, the effect is one of sublime beauty. Like a few moments on early Badly Drawn Boy recordings, there's a hint here of something new and subtly affecting. The cut, like many from this duo, is achingly tender. And, like most of the selections on The Most Important Place in the World, it's an invigorating bit of pop songwriting in the best sense of that word. Deftly performed and produced (by Paul Savage of The Delgados), the 11 tracks here are all little gems that stand on their own and work even better in total.
Need more examples?
"Any Other Mirror" improves upon the earlier stuff on Everything's Getting Older by adding a sort of bossa nova beat to things. If you'd somehow made a "mash-up" of Arab Strap with those Sinatra/Jobim recordings, the end result would have sounded a lot like this. Lovely indeed.
If the Tindersticks had tried to make a punk song, it would have turned out like "The Unseen Man", all bile and closing time-bitterness. The expertly arranged strings underpin what could have otherwise turned into self-parody.
There's a nearly jaunty rhythm guiding "Street Pastor Colloquy, 3 AM" and the tune is warm and melodic. The sax recalls Seventies staples like Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" but the song is on a whole 'nother level, especially when that choir gets added to the mix. It's at that moment that a chill ran up my spine. This is a decidedly strong piece of work.
"We're Still Here" marries strings to some of the more despairing lyrics on the record. Still, like the title implies, there's reason to hope. It is, in its understated beauty, the perfect way to end this record.
All throughout The Most Important Place in the World one gets a sense that Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat have decided to intentionally lighten the mood this time out. I don't mean that in some cheap sense; I mean that the tunes feel warmer and lighter here, even if the lyrics sometimes are decidedly morose and downbeat. It's not that their previous album wasn't a masterpiece but that this one is an altogether different kind of masterpiece.
What Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat have done here is remarkable. Echoes of Randy Newman, Robert Wyatt, and Tom Waits are present on this release, but this album inhabits a unique place in the current musical landscape. The Most Important Place in the World by Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat is a thing of beauty and subtlety. I urge you to get this record as soon as possible.
The Most Important Place in the World by Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat will be out in a matter of weeks via Chemikal Underground.
Find out more details on the Chemikal Underground website's page for Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat.