Here's Tom with the Weather

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Here's Tom With the Weather reads the sleeve, and on Shack's fourth full-length album, the forecast calls for mostly delicate vocals, partly chiming guitars, and more-than-occasional ballads. With these twelve hushed songs, songwriter Michael Head has crafted the most relaxed album of his career. Song titles like the Lilac Time-esque "The Girl with the Long Brown Hair" and "Byrds Turn to Stone," which declares an obvious musical influence, are every bit indicative of the lilting, graceful songs they name. Head's tunes haven't felt this soft and bouncy since he fronted the the Pale Fountains, but that doesn't mean the album ever feels dull. Quite the contrary, Head's songwriting channels so many decades and genres, that all one can do is marvel at the subtle melodies, and hum along to his easy vibes. Tropical beats bounce in the air, harps reverberate romantically, and chiming, sometimes chugging guitars inspire easy moods. Spanish guitars paint texture, threatening to explode out of any given song, and finally do so on the album's most bombastic track, "Meant to Be," which throws in wonderful horns and strings to stir true passion. "Carousel" is, perhaps, the finest Nick Drake song that Drake didn't write, its stirring jazzy arrangement and yearning piano as bittersweet as can be. Here's Tom With the Weather feels like it could be the work of a super-group obsessed with the music of the Byrds and Love, made up of members of Aztec Camera, The Ocean Blue, Doves, Trembling Blue Stars, Echo and the Bunnymen, and the La's. That Head has been quietly creating music this strong in relative obscurity for so many years is remarkable. Maybe Shack just doesn't gel with the zeitgeist, and maybe that's part of what makes them a consistently compelling listen. No matter from which angle one approaches Here's Tom With the Weather, it's an excellent, timeless musical treat.

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