Cate Le Bon

Mug Museum

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2012’s Cyrk saw enigmatic Welsh pop purveyor Cate Le Bon channeling the ghosts of Nico, Syd Barrett, and Sandy Denny, offering up an austere set of angular psych-folk confections that sounded like they arrived via a Harvest Records time capsule. Mug Museum, Le Bon's third long-player, was recorded in the singer/songwriter’s newly adopted Los Angeles, but unlike her recently transplanted U.K. folk contemporary Laura Marling, who took to California’s breezy bacchanalia like a true Manson devotee, Le Bon makes the west coast bend to her will, allowing just enough sun to seep in to keep things mellow, while retaining the moor-bound, overcast patina of her Welsh homeland. The front half of Mug Museum is sublime, a heady mix of clever, Tom Verlaine-inspired guitar lines, sneaky, circuitous melodies, and poetic yet evasive lyrics that culminate into a rich stew of psych-pop goodness. Songs like the propulsive opener "I Can’t Help You," with its snappy, Stereolab-primed backbeat and tonal uniformity, the loose and affable "Are You with Me Now?," and the lovely "I Think I Knew," the latter a lush and moving duet with Seattle-based singer/songwriter (and fellow pop outcast) Mike Hadreas (Perfume Genius), find Le Bon firmly in her comfort zone, even as she pokes and prods around its edges, but Mug Museum, with the exception of the gutsy, proto-punk boardwalk rocker "Sisters" loses a little steam near the end, relying too often on dissonant quirks and meandering VU-style free-jams. It’s not Cyrk III (Le Bon issued an EP of songs called Cyrk II shortly after the release of its precursor), but Mug Museum will delight anybody with ears who enjoyed her previous outing, and while it may lack some of the focus of its predecessor, it retains every bit of its oddball charm.

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