The Coral

The Curse of Love

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After recording their 2006 album The Invisible Invasion with Portishead's Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley at the helm, the Coral retreated to their home studio and an eight-track recorder to work on a follow-up. After crafting a simple and direct album that still stands as their best work, the Coral were looking to do something a little spookier and more melancholic. They certainly did that with The Curse of Love, but thanks to fears that the record company wouldn't know what to do with it, plus the fact that guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones missed half the sessions, they decided to shelve the album and move ahead in a more traditional fashion. To that end, the next album they released, 2007's Roots & Echoes, was a much brighter, more Coral-sounding album. After some prodding from Barrow, and partially due to the band not having anything new to release thanks to another set of shelved sessions, The Curse of Love finally saw the light of day in 2014. Hearing it at some remove, it's hard to see why the band decided to put the album back on the shelf. It works perfectly as a follow-up to The Invisible Invasion, further stripping down their sound to the bare essentials and really allowing the songs to breath. The arrangements are wonderfully done, with a wide range of guitar sounds and tones, nice little sonic touches filling in the spaces, and James Skelly's always impressive vocals sitting firmly in the center, right where they should be. The album may have struck a more somber tone than the record company may have wanted, and apart from the sticky uptempo track "The Golden Bough," there are no radio-ready hits among the batch of moody, understated ballads and cinematic instrumentals, but as an artistic achievement, it stands as the equal to anything else they did up to that point. Or after, for that matter. The album represents a path not taken, though, and that's kind of a bummer because even though the albums that came after are fine slices of bright psych pop, the group really did a fine job of crafting something low-key and gloomy here. Putting that sliver of melancholy aside, however, anyone who followed the Coral, and anyone who likes autumnal psych, will be glad they finally let this record out of the vault.

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