Delgados Universal Audio

The Delgados are a rare breed. In their ten-year history, they have built a résumé that improves with each release, but have never advanced in their career. Universal Audio continues the rich tradition, even though the band has made some big changes that would leave many to worry. Gone are the lush string arrangements that have graced their music since 1998’s Peloton, and instead, the quartet rely on the basics. Even though the orchestral element was never the defining ingredient, it was a major player in their music. However, the Delgados have stepped up and used the team of Alun Woodward and Emma Pollack, as well as some well-placed piano and keyboard spots to fill in whatever gaps there might be. "I Fought the Angels” opens the album in classic form, with sturdy guitars backing Pollack’s usual despondent vocals. A big shock comes two songs later with "Everybody Come Down,” a direct and deceptive sugary pop song transforming Pollack into a bubblegum sweetheart. Needless to say, it’s not a good representation of the entire album, but what they are capable of. That isn’t to say the melodies are missing; Woodward channels the falsetto Beach Boys harmonies on the chorus of "Girls of Valour,” and exhibits an emotionally hook-filled yelp in "Is This All That I Came For?” Universal Audio is the sound of the Delgados revealing their gift for songwriting, removing a key factor of their past albums and proving they can do anything they want. (Chemikal Underground)