After the headaches and strife that surrounded their last album, the Proper Ornaments third album 6 Lenins was relatively smooth sailing. There were no personal rifts or mechanical failures this time around. Instead, the main duo of guitarist/vocalists James Hoare and Max Claps recorded uneventfully at Hoare's home studio, which was equipped this time with a 16-track tape machine instead of their usual 8. Along with their stalwart rhythm section of drummer Robert Syme and bassist Daniel Nellis, they crafted something calm and pastoral. The guitars intertwine gently in chiming harmony, vintage keyboards quietly plunk and squiggle, the bass and drums caress on the slow songs and chug on the quicker-paced tracks, and the two vocalists rarely sing above a whisper. It's not a far cry from their earlier albums, but they sound slightly more assured and settled now. Not in a bad, boring way; more like in a confident and reassuring way. 6 Lenins won't win any awards from fans looking for quick thrills, it might also disappoint anyone looking for the band to take any great leaps into the unknown. What it does, and does very well, is create a relaxing, satisfyingly rich environment where Hoare and Claps can be as melancholy as they please and the music will carry them along like bobbing corks on a vast ocean. A couple tracks do raise a little bit of dust, like the almost peppy "Crepuscular Child" or the Velvet Underground-y "In the Garden," but mostly the songs are introspective and gentle. "Apologies" is a laid-back ballad with some gently biting guitar that matches the sentiments, with an affecting vocal and sentiment, "Song for John Lennon" is a nice tribute to one of Hoare's heroes done over cheesy drum-machine backing, "Bullet from a Gun" is an update on acoustic Jesus and Mary Chain, and the rest of the album is bolstered with unassuming and steady songs that go down very easily. The Proper Ornaments have settled into a fine groove on 6 Lenins; free of drama and full of laid-back charms; it is their most accomplished and impressive record yet in a short career full of great records.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra