Written in Sand

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It's no surprise that Will Carruthers' solo debut effort sounds the way it does -- psychedelic-influenced, with the imprint of his time working with the Spacemen 3 family tree of performers. But what is a fun treat is how sweetly successful it is, a demonstration that his talents for his own work have too long been hidden away. Handling everything himself aside from a couple of backing vocals and, on about half the tracks, guitars from ex-Darkside member Kevin Cowen, Carruthers plays to his strengths, notably his elegant, drowsy basslines and his fragile, softly treated vocals. There's no rampaging lysergic anthems on Written in Sand; the emphasis instead is on chilling out without sounding cold. He's also a little more mainstream in the end -- not in a bland or cheeseball way; rather, songs like the lovely ramble "Goodbye Sorrow" and "Autumn Song" suggest what the likes of Travis and Coldplay could do if they really cared. Carruthers' English accent comes through clearly more than once, which, combined with his almost tentative, soft delivery, makes for a lovely combination -- try "Pick It Up" for one of his best performances, downright soulful without trying at the clich├ęs. "Easy" is another winner, a gospel-touched singalong that, in comparison to the work of Sonic Boom or Spiritualized in the same area, has a refreshing looseness to it, a joy that feels unforced. One of the longest numbers, "Smoking in the Chokehole," lets him explore a moody late-night-saloon bluesy atmosphere, suggesting some of the Doors' more portentous efforts (though without Jim Morrison imposing on the proceedings). Cowen's additions suit the mood just well, adding a little extra charm throughout, but this is Carruthers' show, with results showing that more efforts in future would not merely be appreciated, but welcomed.