The Hepburns

Something Worth Stealing

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The continuing persistence of the Wales-based Hepburns and its leader Matt Jones over 20 years' time is its own story of sticking to one's guns, but it's only appropriate that the album released at the time of its first American tour ranks as one of its best. Something Worth Stealing -- a brisk 12 songs in under half-an-hour's time -- is a quietly sparkling example of the kind of U.K.-based guitar pop that resists all trends to pursue its own muse, the more so because it incorporates so many different sources to create its own fusion. Thus the opening number "The Last Thing I Saw Before I Said Goodbye" counterbalances gentle distortion with vibes and a breezy '60s bossa nova pop feeling, while both spry second wave ska and a bit of Middle Eastern orchestration helps to define "Heavyweight Bohemians." Jones' voice remains the seemingly effortlessly sunny sounding (even when the lyrics are, as they often are, considered and reflective) instrument it is, well suited for the songs whether calm and slow or high-speed and energetic. An eternal spirit of el Records' arch art pop and understated affective whimsy (perhaps best showcased on the spoken word "During British Winters" and "Song for Velma," honoring one of Scooby-Doo's companions) infuses the whole disc, rightfully so -- when there's a John Barry-tinged suave spy number called "Geoff's Cape," with accompanying liner notes detailing the minor British sports legend the song refers to, somehow everything feels just right.

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