Travis The Invisible Band

The Scottish quartet's last album, The Man Who, managed to break them open to a much wider audience than the Britpop clique, and for good reason - great songs. Abandoning the poor attempts at dirty rock that marred their debut, Good Feeling, Travis found their groove and they've stuck with it. The astonishing thing about their new album is that it somehow manages to better their last, which is a tall order, considering the heaps of praise and awards bestowed upon that release. What they've done is focus on the sounds that work best and build from there. The Invisible Band is a much more consistently enjoyable album than their last, which had great singles but suffered from weak moments as a whole. The songs really flow on this album, and although the musical mood is still somewhat melancholic, there's a more positive vibe, especially on tracks like "Flowers in the Window" and "Follow The Light." It seems singer-songwriter Fran Healy is in love, and it shows. Thankfully, he avoids blatant mushiness and delivers 12 solid, soft-pop gems that are downright soothing to listen to. Nothing here is going to rock anyone's socks off, but that's not the point. This is sensitive music made by sensitive men. Production was handled by Radiohead's sound sculptor Nigel Godrich, but his presence is restrained - Travis are driving this ship and they don't need to turn "experimental" to keep things interesting. Instead, Healy has clearly devoted his time to writing hauntingly beautiful songs, and his efforts have paid off. Gone is the immaturity that filled their more rocking past, and we now have honest, emotional music created without pretension or ego, which has been the kiss of death for so many bands from the British Isles. (Sony)