I Am Kloot's self-titled sophomore album is an absolutely gorgeous expansion of the dark and fractured sound of the band's debut. Where John Bramwell and company explored twisted love and regret on the relatively sedate and folk-oriented Natural History, I Am Kloot explodes with scuzzy epic rock guitars and jagged basslines, adds ornate backing instrumentation, and fleshes out its songs until they bleed anthemic charisma and emotion. Producer Ian Broudie offers a hand at the production desk, providing a welcome sheen closer to his work with Echo & the Bunnymen than his own Lightning Seeds material. The album feels every bit a grand coming-out party on par with the Verve's Urban Hymns, where that band kicked its art into overdrive. Indeed, fans like the Gallagher brothers of Oasis fame and other A-list artists were seen crawling out of the woodwork to praise I Am Kloot and revel in the group's live shows at the time of this album's release, just as they did with the Verve. If the album's overall sound takes on a more neo-psychedelic and heavier feel than the debut, touching on influences such as the Hollies, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles, and maybe small doses of Sparklehorse and the Beta Band, I Am Kloot thrives most tellingly here on three superb highlights purely of the band's own creation. Album opener "Untitled No. 1" sets things in motion with a poetic combination of Bramwell's weary, pretty vocals and fascinating inflection, a spooky piano motif, and Andy Hargreaves' shuffling, wonderful drums. "Mermaids" is a chilling slice of sonic perfection as Bramwell's vocals slow to a crawl, a rattle of ghostly chains sits uneasily under pristine slabs of shimmering guitars, and a heartbreaking yet subtle chorus makes the song an instant classic. Immediately following "Mermaids" is the beautiful and rousing ballad "Proof," easily one of the prettiest songs of 2003, and along with "Mermaids" creating surely one of the finest one-two punches in ages. I Am Kloot is a marvel of emotion and mood, hitting zero wrong notes and positioning John Bramwell among the finest songwriters of his time. The album's timeless textures and nostalgic feel are likely to bother some listeners who might claim the music is unfashionable. Such a stance only serves to keep those listeners in the dark to some truly wonderful songs. Creating a masterpiece on its second try, I Am Kloot is earmarked as one of the most interesting bands of its time.
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AllMusic Review by Tim DiGravina