Travis The Man Who

Truly one of this year’s gems, The Man Who allows the pop genius of these young Scots to shine. As one of the first signings to the British boutique label Independiente (whose chief Andy MacDonald used to run Go! Discs), Travis showed great promise with their debut, Good Feeling. However, the quick recording time (only four days) didn’t allow much time to fully develop their mixed bag of songs. With their sophomore release, Travis have spent more time developing the emotion and mood of their recordings, and have succeeded brilliantly. There is no denying that this is a more mellow and reflective record, one that pulls no punches when it comes to ballads. Simply put, this is a treat to listen to start to finish. Nods go out to producers Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck) and Mike Hedges (Manic Street Preachers) for proving why their names command such great respect in the temperamental UK music scene. Still, the ovation must be reserved for chief songwriter Fran Healy, whose rich voice combined with nothing more than an acoustic guitar can open hearts without the aid of lavish production. Healy’s songs seem to follow a natural path in which only he knows the bends and turns, but we are more than happy to follow. Outstanding tracks such as “Driftwood,” “Slide Show” and the lead single “Writing to Reach You” demonstrate why Travis have shown themselves worthy of being labelled one of Scotland’s best musical exports — alongside fine company such as Belle and Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub, and the Trash Can Sinatras. There’s definitely something in the water. (Independiente)