Life Somewhere Else

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The second collaborative album between Steve Kilbey and Jeffrey Cain follows in the vein of their first, with seven years' time feeling like the blink of an eye. In part this is due to Kilbey's vocals retaining their sense of calm, reflective regret as always; from his opening words on the appropriately sea shantey-esque sway of "The Privateer," it really couldn't be mistaken for anyone else. But there's also the sense of Cain's elaborate, often lovely arrangements, something that suits Kilbey well without exactly sounding like the Church or a knock-off of the same -- referencing "The Privateer" again, hearing how he carefully lets the main arrangement build, hold, then drop away in a slow conclusion is a master class in elegance. From there, Life Somewhere Else makes its beautiful way across 67 minutes, an album content to take its own sweet time to reach its destination, happily exploring the nooks and crannies along the way. Compared to the slightly crisper loop-punch of the debut, Life feels easier around the edges at many points (the demi-Motorik kick of "Some Reverse Magic" and the tight rhythms and guitar snarls of "Just Dust" -- where Kilbey has some fun playing around with the duo's name as a chorus -- being notable exceptions), but generally keeps to the same sense of careful focus -- if 21st century Church albums have explored more elaborate, demi-prog approaches, here Cain feels like he's creating striking miniatures that let their depths emerge bit by bit. It can be the increasing kick and burn of "Recoil," at once a slow simmer of anger and a release, the strings and quiet tones that emerge on "Song of the City," or the bigger swagger and extended break of "Oh My Sky." And as the lovely "The Headlight Child" shows, Kilbey's sense of lyrics still engages in the sweetly goofy as desired: "You used to roll around in the bush/Pretending it was the Hindu Kush."

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