Lightning in a Twilight Hour

Slow Changes

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Since he first launched the Field Mice in 1998, Bobby Wratten has been a reliable source for some of the best, most wrenching heartbreak music anywhere, indie pop or not. In that band, and the two -- Northern Picture Library and the Trembling Blue Stars -- that followed, Wratten has charted a life seemingly lived in a constant state of melancholy, writing songs that cut right through all the nonsense and head straight for the part of the brain that makes you cry even though you really don't want to. After the last Trembling Blue Stars record in 2011, Wratten took some time off, but with Lightning in a Twilight Hour, he's back with all the tender sadness anyone could ever need. The project's first release, the Slow Changes EP, reunites Wratten with longtime collaborators Michael Hiscock, who played bass in the Field Mice, Ian Catt, who has produced nearly everything Wratten's ever recorded, and vocalists Anne Mari Barker-Davies and Beth Arzy, who both have worked extensively with Wratten over the years. That he's gathered together such a familiar cast speaks to the incredibly consistent tone and level of quality every project he's been involved with has exhibited, and Lightning in a Twilight Hour do indeed have a very familiar sound. Matching minor-key melodies with melancholic words, tenderly sung and coated in electronic warmth, songs like "Everyone Talks About the Weather" marry lovely hooks and crushing passion, and have been done masterfully by Wratten before. There might be more guitars here than with Trembling Blue Stars, and the second half of the EP is made up of short electronic experiments, but the sound and presentation are of a piece with everything Wratten has released. If that sounds good to you, then this EP is the start of something sad and beautiful.

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