High Llamas Can Cladders

While undoubtedly lovely, the High Llamas’ Can Cladders is a bit too wispy to leave much of an impression. The London group, led by Sean O’Hagan, continue to create winning pop songs backed by full-fledged orchestral arrangements that augment clever, if not melancholy, songs. The rich tone of the strings, quirky percussion and airy vocals on "The Old Spring Town” first introduces the notion that the High Llamas belong to another era of pop music, as hallmarks of ’50s and ’60s composition modes come to the forefront. There’s some Motown but only subtly and within the sound and attack of the drums. For the most part, the High Llamas conjure the work of Burt Bacharach and the Carpenters, artists whose romantic lyrics were matched by saturated production numbers that came off breezy and weightless. A song like "Winter’s Day” is charming initially but its monotonous chorus and modest arrangement soon becomes tiresome. There’s a surprising pep to "Honeytrop,” whose cinematic arrangement sounds like it was mapped after a bouncing ball, while "Rollin’” is so childlike and innocent that it just seems silly. Similarly, "Clarion Union Hall” is almost comically psychedelic, containing a string melody strikingly similar to the theme from Gilligan’s Island. It’s a rare misstep musically, as the record does possess sophistication, demonstrating the High Llamas’ gift for arrangement and execution. That said, the vibe throughout Can Cladders is too dreamily lethargic to sustain prolonged interest. (Drag City)