Sky Larkin

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Motto Review

by Fred Thomas

The scruffy Leeds-based unit Sky Larkin have always leaned on the sounds of disenfranchised '90s indie guitar heroes like Sleater-Kinney and Sonic Youth to churn out their pensive but passionate songs. With third album Motto, they turn in their brightest production that only just barely obscures some of their darkest lyrical moments. Singer/guitarist Katie Harkin wrote a lot of the lyrics while moonlighting with friends Wild Beasts on a massive international tour, and when it was time to return to the writing process for Sky Larkin, she tapped into a specific breed of alienation and despair that mirrored both the intensity and monotony of the tour. It's not always on the surface, but a close listen to opening track "Motto" reveals a downtrodden feeling beneath its cacophonous walls of guitar. The ceaselessly peppy "Loom" comes on like an especially happy lost Throwing Muses track, but the lyrics speak of a "personal ghoul" who's "always in the room." It's a romantic musical backdrop for a song addressing a feeling of grating harassment, and the juxtaposition isn't immediately noticeable. Despite their somewhat dour lyrical disposition, the songs on Motto are high-energy blasts of sophisticated songwriting. The varied and constant key changes of "Carve It Out" keep things interesting and in motion, and the fluttering tremolo-bar guitars of "Bravo Dodo" recall the more inventive clean tones of early Dinosaur Jr. or pre-Loveless My Bloody Valentine. While still plenty noisy and messy-headed, Sky Larkin sound their most organized on Motto, and the deeper focus they apply to their energetic sounds is what makes the end results work better than any of their previous albums.

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