The Charlatans are no strangers to loss. Keyboardist Rob Collins died during the recording of their 1997 masterwork Tellin' Stories, and 17 years later they lost founding member Jon Brookes to brain cancer. His absence hangs over 2015's Modern Nature, the first record the band has made since Brookes' diagnosis in 2010, but the Charlatans aren't the sort to dwell in darkness. Tim Burgess alludes to the drummer's presence on the album's opening "Talking in Tones" but Modern Nature soon settles into a nicely worn soulful groove, a sound that suggests the group gains strength through the therapy of playing music. Happily, this emphasis on soul gives Modern Nature a different character than Who We Touch, the nifty 2010 LP where they dabbled in different sounds while retaining a solid song foundation. Due to its soulful undercurrents, this feels more unified than Who We Touch and also contemplative, a record designed not for the black depth of night but the sepia tones of twilight. Much of this haziness derives from the shimmering production, a sound that's mellow without succumbing to laziness. It's a nice fit for cleverly retrofitted '70s soul grooves like "Tall Grass," but it also suits the handful of songs like "Come Home Baby" and "So Oh" that echo the Charlatans' early Madchester swirl. By incorporating these offhand allusions to the past while being firmly planted in a mature present, Modern Nature showcases a band whose members are aware of where they've been and grateful for what they have.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine