Cate Le Bon

Crab Day

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The fourth full-length outing from the singular Welsh pop confectioner, Crab Day is as peculiar and capricious as anything Cate Le Bon has done thus far, which is saying that it sounds a great deal like her three previous long players. For fans of her particular brand of knotty, carnivalesque art-pop, which sounds like an amalgam of Os Mutantes, Nico, Stereolab, Syd Barrett, and Shirley Collins, Crab Day will be a delight. Le Bon's clever and often abstract turns of both melody and phrase are abundant throughout, and the addition of horns, woodwinds, and the occasional marimba to the mix evoke even stranger hues than usual -- trading in the deep greens and grays of her homeland for the terminally pleasant climate of Los Angeles may have had some influence on the album, but Crab Day is a largely canonical affair, despite all of the extra window dressing. The crustacean-minded title cut -- a Le Bon-conjured surrogate for April Fool's Day -- wastes little time in setting the mood, rolling out an insistent, martial beat that's peppered with angular, Krautrock guitars, adding extra bite to Le Bon's pithy refrain of "It doesn't pay to sing your songs." Elsewhere, the punk-addled "Wonderful" suggests what the Pixies may have sounded like had they grown up in Cardiff instead of Boston, and the heady, Kinks-ian "I Am an Attic" goes dark without losing any of the trickster twinkle that made the songs before it more madcap than maudlin. In fact, only the elliptical -- and quite beautiful -- "Love Not Love" feels rooted in anything worldly, wistfully musing "Love is not love when it's a coat hanger, a borrowed line or passenger." It's as close as Le Bon allows herself to get to the world outside of the amusement park grounds, and in its longing, the listener feels connected, if only for a few moments, before the barker begins anew and the midway lights come back on.

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