Following up a successful debut album is a tricky proposition filled with many possible pitfalls. One way for artists to avoid falling on their faces is to stick with what made their debut albums good, then give things a slight tweak. Novella do a fine job of following this blueprint for success on their second album, Change of State. Their first album, Land, was a hazy psych-pop album with tangled guitars, pulsing rhythms, and some seriously catchy songs, all recorded in a real studio with a big sound to match. The sessions for Change of State took place in producer James Hoare's home studio on his old eight-track tape machine. The surroundings and process led to a much more intimate and precise album, with the drums dialed back and the overall mix having a less expansive feel. The more compressed sound allows Hollie Warren's vocals to move to the fore, and she makes the most of it. Her expressive and resonant singing was one of the highlights of the first album and she's even more impressive here, giving the songs a deep emotional impact. The guitar work of Warren and Sophy Hollington (whose impressive artwork graces the album cover) is more tightly locked together, bassist Suki Sou and drummer Iain Laws work together like a well-oiled machine, and the occasional synths add just the right amount of texture. It's a compact brand of psychedelia, made for late nights and quiet moments with songs that foster introspective reveries and the occasional burst of melancholy. The album rarely goes above a whisper; tracks like "Desert" and "Four Colours" are gently peaceful and pretty, those with motorik underpinnings ("Thun" and "Come In") percolate calmly, and a couple songs ("Elements," "A Thousand Feet") attain the same kind of dream-state psych that Opal or the Rain Parade did at their peak. Only a couple songs ("Does the Island Know," the jangling "Side by Side") have any kind of insistent energy, and they help keep the album from floating away on a cloud of pillow-soft sound. Choosing Hoare and his home studio proves to be a pretty brilliant idea and the band sounds great throughout Change of State. The songs, sound, and performances all combine into something that doesn't exactly improve on what they did on Land, but the album is just as compelling.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra