Previously a solo vehicle for singer/songwriter Simon Aldred, Bolton-based five-piece Cherry Ghost joined the likes of Doves and Elbow on the list of Northern, emotive indie rock stalwarts with 2007's Thirst for Romance, an enchanting blend of alt-country and grandiose dream pop which earned them both a Top Ten chart placing and an Ivor Novello award for breakthrough single "People Hold the People." But while their debut focused on a sound self-described as "Willie Nelson meets Walt Disney," their follow-up and more rounded group effort Beneath This Burning Shoreline is a much darker affair, which at times recalls the gothic murder balladry of Nick Cave, and at others, the melancholic chamber pop of '90s outfit Tindersticks. There are still the occasional rousing arena anthems such as the pounding Arcade Fire-influenced "Black Fang" and the soaring, symphonic pop of "Kissing Strangers," but its 13 tracks, produced by Dan Austin (Massive Attack) are far more interesting when they venture outside the band's more familiar Everyman territory. "The Night They Buried Sadie Clay" is an ambitious cinematic epic which incorporates snatches of Chopin's Funeral March and Ennio Morricone-inspired production alongside a stalking electro groove; the thundering opener "We Sleep on Stones" is a Scott Walker-esque, widescreen, orchestral country number based on the somber subject matter of mass graveyards, while "Strays" is an eerie but beautiful instrumental which provides the perfect finale for such a pathos-laden collection of songs. Aldred himself is in fine voice, too; his travels around Europe, where most of the album was written, inspired a world-weary quality to his soulful raspy tones in the vein of Babybird's Stephen Jones and Echo & the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch. Beneath This Burning Shoreline's prevalent, intimate but unsettling nature provides exactly what Cherry Ghost needed to differentiate themselves from their fellow native troubadours, and while it's unlikely to strike the same emotive chord as its predecessor, it furthers Aldred's reputation as one of the U.K.'s most interesting storytellers.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien