Good Arrows

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For their third full-length, Good Arrows, British six-piece Tunng continue to deliver the same combination of folk, pop, and indie electronica that earned the band the description of "folktronica." Lightly programmed beats and blips pepper the acoustic guitar arpeggios that give the songs their base, as Sam Genders' soft vocals layer over themselves and those of the backup singers and the myriad other instruments that twist and squirm their way into the compositions. Kalimba, hammer dulcimer, clarinet, eclectic samples, and electric guitar all manage to find their way in, but they're arranged in such a way -- gently, sparsely, deliberately -- that nothing ever seems cluttered or ornate. This is helped in part due to the attention paid to structure here, because even with the noises and distractions and long stretches of space, there's a cleanliness to the songs, verses and choruses and even the occasional hook all playing an important part in the album's overall effectiveness. The fantastic "Bullets" almost seems like it could be by the (later) Beatles, with the line "We're catching bullets in our teeth/It's hard to do but they're so sweet" pushing itself into the foreground as the one-two piano rhythm beats out playfully behind. Not every track on Good Arrows is as immediate as this, but all have a contagious, subtle beauty that makes them impossible to ignore, even as Genders sings explicitly about body parts, focusing on the visceral perhaps as an attempt to accommodate for what he cannot understand. "He crawls into her aorta.../He crawls like a rat inside her spine" he sings in "Hands," only later to bluntly state "One day we will be dead," almost as if he was trying to avert the unavoidable by exploring and rebuilding the body himself, or in "String," where he and vocalist Becky Jacobs sing of being lost in themselves, "Hang my eyes up on a hook.../Inside my own skin I fail to find myself again," as wind instruments and minor keys swirl around darkly behind. But even with all this, the obsession with the corporeal, with death, the album ends on a lighter note, as if Tunng realize that life isn't all bad, isn't simply the path to the inevitable finish. "It's fine if we are by our side," Genders sings, which, despite the triteness of the statement, provides a nice ending to the record, lighter and breezier, balancing the concern with enjoyment, and making Good Arrows a very complete album indeed.

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