The Pastels Slow Summits

The PastelsSlow Summits
If we're being technical about things, it's been 16 years since the Pastels released a proper full-length. In that time, the Scottish indie pop legends recorded a soundtrack for a film called The Last Great Wilderness and released a split album with Japanese duo Tenniscoats. With their scrappy indie pop days long behind them, anyone familiar with the band's most recent releases shouldn't be too surprised by what Slow Summits has to offer. Produced by John McEntire, the first full batch of new songs since 1997's Illumination continues that release's thread of graceful, pensive pop led by the joint hushed vocals of Stephen McRobbie and Katrina Mitchell. Fittingly a spring release, the songs bloom with dense arrangements, the most opulent being the string-heavy "Kicking Leaves," a collaboration with famed composer Craig Armstrong. The album never breaks mid-tempo, which brings unity to the nine songs, ranging from the flute-laden, instrumental title track to the heart-warming jangle of single "Check My Heart." All too often these days our long-dormant heroes return sounding like a shell of their former selves, but on Slow Summits, the Pastels sound as if they've been gone for only 16 months. It's a very welcoming album that will please Pastels fans, and hopefully find some new ones. (Domino)