The opening song 'Boys Born in Confident Times' is a statement of intent. It sets the tone for the album without any apology. The dreamy synth riff will not be to everybody's taste but it will instantly hook others. The song chugs along with vocal interjections from Stebbing, accenting certain phrases. It even features an oily guitar solo that had to be played by a man throwing back long bleached hair.
'Lifeline' works especially well because it has a stronger beat and a disco bass line. The songs with more prominent rhythm sections are the stronger ones on the album. Those left to carry themselves can feel a little rudderless - without quite enough substance.
I am not sure if this was intended but during the intro to 'Nathaniel' I was struck with a sense of humor in the record. It opens sparsely with a strummed acoustic guitar and a clean electric guitar plucked and slid beneath it. It has the air of a suburban scene from the early 90's. It conjures images of brown bathrooms, aspirational career men and a fruity haircut. This song would suit the lugubrious entrance of a Napoleon Dynamite character perfectly. We are served a chorus of brilliant aptness and real quality. It has a grin inducing vocal melody that oozes smoothness and a horn section that completes its subtle impact.
'Long Forgotten Boy' is my favourite song on the album (video below). It opens funkily with a groovy palm-muted guitar riff. A bass kick then comes in and drives the rhythm. The song progresses masterfully to include a disco inspired off beat hi-hat, a harmonising guitar part and woozy synths. By the end you won't be able to stop yourself from reenacting a confident strut.
Urban Heat Island clocks out with 'Arp' a slightly more melancholy number that perhaps reflects the mood of austerity that preceded the album. The wandering bass line and dancing synth hold the song amid a stark lack of a notable rhythm section. It left me thinking how I would classify this record if someone asked me, "what kind of music is it?" It has parts that are definitely indie, some of it is very chillout, there are undeniable nods towards disco and I was continually being seduced by its electro-pop vibe. Would that suffice as an answer? It is as conclusive as I can be.
There are two extremes in music listening. There is one side which is listening because you enjoy the music. This is a very primitive reaction and not something the listener has a great deal of control over. The other end of the spectrum is listening to music because it fits in with a desired projection of yourself or because it makes you feel cool. Stebbing has created something here that will make you feel cool, but which will also debonairly strum those impartial enjoyment strings.