Ocean Colour Scene North Atlantic Drift

On their last release, Mechanical Wonder, it sounded like England’s Ocean Colour Scene were running out of steam. Their musical talents and successes were well-documented, but after almost 15 years together, the songs started to suffer. On North Atlantic Drift, however, they set things right again. They have returned to the fine form of earlier albums, and the songwriting is definitely shining brightly again. In what seems to be an OCS album trend, they lead off with a real stomper — this time called "I Just Need Myself.” They then settle back down with a mix of ballads and expertly crafted, soulful mod-pop. "Make the Deal” is one of the album’s finest moments, and others such as "On My Way” and the title track are arguably some of the best songs of their long career. There really are no weak moments, and this is definitely one of their most consistent albums to date. Simon Fowler’s voice is still in top condition, and the natural-sounding production is bang-on. As a nice treat, the Canadian release features four bonus tracks that are easily as strong as the album material, including the emotionally-charged "Me, I’m Left Unsure.” Ocean Colour Scene might have taken the easy route by returning to familiar ground for their sixth studio album, but to be able to pull off songs as good as these in the process is a truly pleasant surprise. (Sanctuary)