Best-known for her heavily Welsh-accented tones and her brace of anthemic Brit-pop hit singles "Mulder and Scully" and "Road Rage," former Catatonia lead singer Cerys Matthews has spent the resulting decade trying to escape her "drink anybody under the table" reputation which embodied the whole late-'90s ladette movement. After relocating to Nashville in 2002, she's produced a series of critically acclaimed alt-country/folk-influenced albums, presented a series of BBC documentaries about Celtic poetry and Welsh vocalist Dorothy Squires, and bizarrely, turned up as a contestant on the jungle reality show, I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here. Her third studio album and her first released through her own Rainbow City Recordings label, Don't Look Down continues her journey into middle-aged respectability with 12 tracks steeped in the glorious sounds of the '60s. There may be a few concessions to the retro-soul bandwagon that every U.K. female artist has climbed aboard since the success of Duffy and Winehouse, such as the opening track "Arlington Way," which echoes the cinematic balladry of the former, and the toe-tapping "Smash the Glass" which recalls the Motown tendencies of the latter. But the majority of the album, which has also been released in a Welsh-language version titled Paid Edrych I Lawr, focuses on the kind of post-modern lounge-pop pastiches which have been notably absent from the music scene since the self-imposed hiatus of Saint Etienne. "Aeroplanes," whose Welsh-language version is one of three tracks that also appeared on her 2007 mini-album Awyren=Aeroplane, is a luscious slice of ethereal dream pop whose gorgeous light and airy vocals will shock any listeners only accustomed to her more familiar Welsh growl, "Salutations" is a beautifully melancholic tale of regret featuring bittersweet spoken word verses and a blissed-out indie pop chorus, while the playful percussion, sweeping strings, and lilting guitars of "Into the Blue" provide Matthews' most immediate pop moment since her '90s heyday. Elsewhere, there are infectious sea shanties ("A Captain Needs a Ship"), gentle shoegazing pop ("Evelyn"), and even brooding gothic balladry ("Through a Glass") on a captivating and often magical album which yet again establishes Matthews as a songwriting force to be reckoned with.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien