A playful return, full of dynamic, spaced out songwriting...
'The Other'

On the back of too many years spent touring, burnt out physically and mentally, Kyle Thomas seeks to assemble these fragments of himself into a cohesive whole on ‘The Other’. Putting these together was always going to be a difficult task, given that Thomas has a slightly fractious relationship with ‘King Tuff’, a bawdy, exuberant persona which he recently felt was slipping away from him.

This plays out across the album’s various currents: the title track is a prototype for the desperately personal side, laced with tender evocations of Brattleboro vernacular, dusty highways, old Subarus and pay phones forming a linear narrative about reaching his absolute nadir. But ‘Raindrop Blue’ is a world away, a stomping psych tune that does roll out those disconnected clichés of velvet, priestesses and jewels, but is redeemed by the infectious single ‘Thru the cracks’, featuring an appearance from Jenny Lewis. Indeed, the opener is a bit of a lark mirror: listeners expecting the whole record to be shot through with Jason Pierce-style lamentations might be disappointed. But the next nine songs are dynamic and spaced out.

It’s a bit less frenetic than previous material, but across ten songs Thomas leaves his unmistakeable sonic signature with auteur-like precision. He plays most instruments and takes care of its dense production. It’s well-planned, intricate, expansive, and still manages to sound whimsical, even childlike, at points. Lyrical subtlety is not one of the album’s tenets, but that’s not really what’s at stake here. Even then, it’s full of escape routes: the ‘Infinite Mile’ is a postmodern meeting place that forms the basis of a jaunty spin on Americana, all androids and entropy. On ‘Neverending Sunshine’, he imagines being swallowed by the sun.

The last of these is ‘No Man’s Land’, the analogue to the opener. This isn’t an Ouroboros. It is wistful, woozy, the objective correlative for finally reaching inside the dream, ‘The Other’ itself, and a slightly hesitant end to an album that, four years after ‘Black Moon Spell’, is a confident development. ‘The Other’ is by no means a reinvention though, as Thomas rarely loses sight of what made his previous material so appealing – that sense of playfulness and the abundance of psych-inflected hooks.

7/10

Words: Wilf Skinner

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