Arabian Nights: Lawrence Arabia, Chant Darling

Lawrence Arabia, aka James Milne, aka the bestest musical Kiwi export since Flight of the Conchords and perhaps ever, doesn’t really deal in coherence and Chant Darling flits churlishly between the realms of bearded anti-folk, afrobeat and unashamed throwback rock’n’roll whimsically. Channelling disdain and despair from down-under through a similar musically nonchalant attitude towards the boundaries laid down by NME genre pigeonholing as Canada’s porcelain heroine Feist, the harmonious, heartfelt insecurities of Love Like a Fool wouldn’t be too far out of place on the umpteenth John Lennon Greatest Hits collection rushed out just in time for December 25th.. Lawrence Arabia really is that dumbfounding. The hallucinatory wafting of the choral perfections on The Undesirables swoon and swathe about whirring bass ebbs and Hammond organ flows before the sumptuous stomp of Apple Pie Bed exposes Milne’s upbeat, all-conquering façade of the beautifully bruised heart pumping emotive excellence through the veins of the record. Auckland CBD Part 2 is pre-Vampire Weekend afrobeat howled through the whickered beard of Devendra Banhart, serenading the “girl of my dreams” with a slicked-back Costello chorus, before the enticingly immature horns of Eye A and lo-fi slump of The Crew Of The Commodore delve into nostalgic reminisces of youthful times past. Lawrence Arabia experienced a troubled childhood if Fine Old Friends and The Beautiful Young Crew are anything to go by, as the Velvet Underground influence is stretched and bent to breaking point on record lowlights about as misguided as blonde highlights in winter. Yet the cracked vocals habberdashed haphazardly over the saccharine sheen of the slippery slide guitar of I’ve Smoked Too Much recuperate the varnished shine that coats an almost ideal album and the hymnal desolation of Dream Teacher is as angelic as Fleet Foxes chomping Milky Way bars outside the pearly gates of paradise. As a resident of the majestic London label Bella Union, marvel is to be expected yet Lawrence Arabia defies expectations, throwing together a knapsack filled with torn heartstrings, nostalgic divine inspiration and alluring naivety that’s impact is as heavy as any record of the past twelve months.