Never, and Maybe Not Even Then

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Bedroom pop that's sincere yet self-deprecating, Never, and Maybe Not Even Then is the kind of album that would have sounded perfectly at home on the Sarah records roster a decade earlier -- Graham Darnell's songs are both engagingly witty and painfully lovelorn, complete with gentle acoustic melodies and chirpy organ accompaniment that immediately evoke peak-era Field Mice. It's also the kind of record that's uniquely English, informed by factory smoke and rainswept afternoons spent indoors -- Darnell is a songwriter in the classic mold, marrying clever wordplay and shimmering melodies in step with everyone from Ray Davies to Stuart Murdoch. And for all the relative simplicity of Never, and Maybe Not Even Then, he's also capable of moments of startling majesty, most notably "As the Time Keeps Ticking By," a gorgeously haunting ballad complete with doo wop-styled backing vocals.

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