High Llamas Get Warm and Fuzzy

Album Review of High Llamas Can Cladders (Drag City) 3 and 1/2 stars

Can we please go for a drive today in your racing-green 1986 Volvo? Can we take the train out to Oxford and read to each other from “Franny and Zooey” and suck the dew out of the thatching on English countryside houses? Because those are the things that this album makes me want to do.

The sound is highly orchestral including harp, clarinet and a whole host of strings making them almost certainly more “chamber” than “pop.”

“Can Cladders,” the fourth album by The High Lamas, lives up to the Drag City reputation of quietly expert compositions of subtle intricacies.

Their lyrics smack of an Anglocentric Kinks-esque nostalgia for the British country-side with song titles like, “The Old Spring Town,” “Summer Seen” and “Clarion Union Hall.”

The album opens with an especially woeful violin line one might expect to be in a documentary about the Civil War, which leads immediately into the soft drum/organ beat of “The Old Spring Town” with its enigmatic chorus of “How many times have you been to Mexico/ how many times have you been to Angelo/ and how many times have you seen the ferry go?”

It is easy to miss the weaving harmonies between the band’s four vocalists as they almost unnoticeably swap sections of the song amongst themselves, crooning over each other against layered instrumentation.

“Clarion Union Hall” is an all-chorus, high pitched, guitarand drum-less ode to Clarion Hall. Wherever or whatever that is, you find yourself struck with nostalgia for this place you’ve never been.

“Can Cladders” itself is one of the more interesting songs, with the lyrics, “all the can cladders and poets were there/ the read through room was just upstairs/ tearing the pages/and swingingthe chairs.”

The High Llamas’ literary nature is exposed in their melancholy and their joy.

Tea anyone?