The Zephyrs

When the Sky Comes Down It Comes Down on Your Head

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The Zephyrs do a beautiful and seemingly impossible thing -- they manage to combine the epic grandeur of Mogwai with the country-rock of Gram Parsons. When the Sky Comes Down It Comes Down on Your Head is the Edinburgh band's second album, following the criminally ignored It's OK Not to Say Anything. The six-piece, led by brothers Stuart and David Nicol, were signed to Southpaw Recordings based on a tip from Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite, and really manage to hit the mark with this record. Unfortunately, Southpaw folded not long after its release, leaving the Zephyrs out in the cold and PIAS and Mogwai's Rock Action label to take up the slack. It's well worth the effort, though, since When the Sky Comes Down is not only one of the best albums of 2001, but a rare perfect record. The nine songs flow with a psychedelic, somnambulant ambience -- country music in slow motion. And what a magnificent set of guest players. The High Llamas and Stereolab's Sean O'Hagan contributes string arrangements; Arab Strap's Adele Bethel sings dreamily on the dusty, Southern California-by-way-of-Scotland "Modern Beats"; and Mojave 3's Rachel Goswell lends transcendent vocals to the ascending, shimmering "Setting Sun." Stuart Nicol's singing gives a striking, if laid-back personality to the pastoral melodies and the album on a whole -- though an easy winner for fans of Low, Mojave 3, and Grandaddy -- also redefines the scope of alt-country music.

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