Seen It All Before? Lawrence Arabia, The Sparrow.

"Where should we go? I've seen it all before", the perhaps rather outré if immensely intriguing New Zealand songsmith James Milne mournfully laments on Bicycle Riding, the fourth track from this, The Sparrow. His third full-length, if these sparingly ornate few moments may come dripping in as much retrospective reference as they may in palpable yearning – an elegiac ballad is this, crafted of punctiliously carved ethereality that sounds like Patrick Watson stitching his moist, if mildly claustrophobic vocal discomfort into Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band – then it's one of few instances destitute of genuine ingenuity.

His previous, 2009's Chant Darling was an inspiring attraction upon which many an attention converged, and meritoriously so. For as far as idiosyncratic acoustic work is concerned few had concocted such a befuddling wonder and undoubtedly far fewer have since. Madcap yet manageable, his only stylistic adversary may be deemed compatriot Connan Mockasin although with Holson not only in cahoots with Charlotte Gainsbourg but with Milne himself besides (Mockasin helped flesh out The Sparrow down in Surrey prior to it being produced, mixed and finished off by its instigator) adversary has now become ally. And although the kooky eccentricities of Holson's Forever Dolphin Love are all but entirely absent from this particular oeuvre, there's enough peculiarity hidden within to power the innumerable flickering, figurative lightbulbs which float merrily above Milne's head.

The 03 has Lawrence Arabia enwrapped in a jocularly self-effacing swing: "Well here I am now so don't be shy/ Come point and laugh at the failure, I/ As I'm open round the bus exchange/ Countin' out two eighty change/ To get a bus to my mum's house." A sardonic parting shot at an undisclosed doubter, it's a fairly emphatic "ooh stick you/ Your mama too" to whoever it may concern and musically, constituting lo-fi snare 'n' cymbal besides a sportive bass bob, is simplicity engineered to engender further infatuation. And if such rousing rhythmic work won't do then them there choral harmonies instantaneously seduce with the immediacy of an elementary "ooh" and an "ah". The segueing Early Kneecappings meanwhile plays off the uncomplicated yet overwhelmingly effectual sweeping melodrama to have clicked Elbow into an unfeasibly mainstream flow as it surges from the point at which rippling cymbals whisper beneath Arabia's again reticent admission: "I took to swimming/ I never got any good", before again reverting to the satire which continues to serve him unwaveringly well. "I had to kneecap my friends just to keep up/ They said I could and I should", he then condemns of another unascertainable authority through a hazy swathe of vocal redolent of Arthur Russell at his most blotto. The strings now swoop like any thing avifaunal diving earthward in hungered hunt, simultaneously elevating Arabia up another notch or two in the anthemia stakes.

Similarly orchestral, if deft and of course jovial of touch is opener Travelling Shoes: propelled by the breezy fare of label mate Andrew Bird's latest, Break It Yourself, as Arabia coos "He's got a unique style/ And he's been yellin' it for a while" you sense that with Bird humming around and about since '96 this artistic homogeneity is here elucidated lyrically and above all purposefully. Perhaps. The lulling bustle to The Listening Times is rather more Arcadian, Arabia musing on "pasture, growing thick" atop reedy strings and stuff that sound as though entangled in sepia thicket, whilst The Bisexual – an aptly confounding tale of amorous confusion re: sexual orientation – relies on a flavoursome salsa sorta shimmy, vibraphone suavity and brass poise. It's the sensual funk slump of Legends however that, concerning some randy perv whose coital thirst is becoming progressively worse, proves a stunning crescendo to a record which exquisitely exhibits Milne's unendingly evocative talents. If this final constructional caricature may be "always chasing a skirt/ Right now he's at his worst" then conversely, Lawrence Arabia continues to create at his best, plateauing as though the volcanic gumbo of Waimarino.