The Leisure Society

Into the Murky Water

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Previously bandmates with director Shane Meadows and actor Paddy Considine, both major exponents of the British kitchen-sink drama, one might expect Nick Hemming's Brighton-based collective the Leisure Society to reflect the gritty realism of their critically acclaimed low-budget films. Instead, the former Telescopes' frontman's second album, Into the Murky Water, feels more suited to the classic films of the '60s than the hard-hitting contemporary tales of This Is England and Dead Man's Shoes, as evident on the opening title track, which showcases its cinematic ambitions with a spy movie-inspired fusion of foot-stomping percussion, playful marimbas, sweeping orchestral lounge-pop, and the Morricone-inspired spaghetti western vibes of closer "Just Like the Knife." But despite its occasional Hollywood-style tendencies, its ten tracks are a quintessentially English affair, its pastoral folk-pop nature constantly evoking images of the scenic countryside and quaint village pubs. "You Could Keep Me Talking" starts out as an enchanting war-time ballroom waltz before its plucked pizzicato strings, breezy flutes, and early Beatlesesque melodies give way to a crescendo of shoegazing distorted guitars, "This Phantom Life" effortlessly fuses shuffling Celtic-tinged nu-folk and a grandiose Elbow-style everyman chorus, while "Dust on the Dancefloor" manages to stay on the right side of twee with its Belle & Sebastian-esque brand of melancholic indie pop. Elsewhere, the languid hippy vibes of "Although We All Are Lost" are given an almost hymnal quality thanks to its use of church organs and powerful choral vocals, "I Shall Forever Remain an Amateur" is a gorgeous autumnal campfire singalong inspired by Hemming's stint working in a fabric warehouse, while "Better Written Off (Than Written Down)" is a jaunty slice of Nashville-tinged chamber pop reminiscent of the Divine Comedy, a far more appropriate comparison than those of Americana purveyors Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear who have been bandied around since their debut. Continuing the renaissance of quintessential English folk-pop as heard on Metronomy and Wild Beasts' recent efforts, Into the Murky Water is a charmingly lush and wistful affair which proves that their unexpected Ivor Novello nominations were no fluke.

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