Clearlake Amber

Brighton, England’s Clearlake have gone well beyond their staple Britpop beginnings and turned up the heat significantly on Amber, their third release. This is apparent right from the album’s opener, the intense and brooding "No Kind Of Life.” The guitars are heavier, and the attitude definitely darker. They can still dial it back to a sunnier tone on "Getting Light Outside” or "You Can’t Have Me.” The expanded sound likely stems from all the extra studio work, with big-shots like Steve Osborne, Jim Abbiss and Phil Brown working behind the scenes. Luckily, Amber manages to avoid the pitfall of being overproduced. Polished and tight, yes, but not overloaded with needless noodling. Singer Jason Pegg’s distant and soaring vocals easily carry through the album’s heavy sounds, but he can still adapt to quieter moments like "Dreamt That You Died” or the title track itself. With a sound closer to bands like Muse rather than Blur (who they have been compared to in the past), Clearlake are well-suited to raise eyebrows of a wider variety of rock fans, rather than just the Anglophiles. Amber marks a big and dynamic return. (Domino)