Lawrence Arabia The Sparrow

Lawrence Arabia The Sparrow
This release is quite the unexpected leap forward for James Milne (aka Lawrence Arabia). He has some newfound confidence, which translates into more articulate pop songs that suggest the Kinks and the Divine Comedy. It might have something to do with the fact that he recorded the majority of the record in England, rather than his native New Zealand, but he's definitely shifted gears, in the very best way. There's a great deal going on in most songs ― plenty of piano and strings ― but the star of the show is the vocals. Milne shifts effortlessly from his normal, generous range into soaring falsetto and he's definitely the reason to keep listening. Occasionally the songs do collapse under the weight of it all ― there's too much preciousness in the lyrics and too many layers of sophistication in the arrangements ― but there's much to like about The Sparrow. Lawrence Arabia has embraced the challenges of the difficult third album, and won. (Bella Union)