In the age of brazen and brash in the land of bangers and mash, Sky Larkin took the sneaky route in this listener’s ears. The rambunctiousness of Los Campesinos! was absent, as was the pure folksy beauty behind Noah & The Whale. The video for “Fossil, I” saw its first run through on Wichita Recordings‘ website with floating amplifiers and an unassuming, yet talented frontwoman in Katie Harkin. I caved, bought The Golden Spike, and soon could not prevent myself from listening to it constantly. Katie, Doug and Nestor gave me the most spun, front-to-end, disc of 2009. The great crystal ball has dropped once more into fireworks, and 2010 brings us the sophomoric Kaleide straight from the ghastliest of locales.
Halloween was the Chicago debut of the Leeds trio, who returned to the United Kingdom shortly after and holed themselves up amidst the bones and worms underneath a Victorian church. Affectionately entitled the Crypt, their newfound recording space was lovingly the setting for numerous twitter updates and pictures. The unique setting built the buzz as The Golden Spike racked in accolades, even as iTunes declared it a best alternative album of the year. Measures into “Still Windmills” and Kaleide continues on, John Goodmanson accompanying once again, where “Keepsakes” left off.
“Still Windmills” and “Kaleide” are sonically undistinguishable from the 2009 debut; full of bright lead and chorused guitar over driven drumming. The addition of “Landlocked” makes the first half feel as a continuation. Thankfully the ace in the deck comes by way of “Tiny Heist.” With a muffled and suppressed introduction broken by Nestor’s drumming, which is more pronounced and varied on Kaleide, the song jangles the listener for a wonderful labyrinthian ride. Doug injects a heavy, fuzzed bass that kindly contradicts Miss Harkin’s floating vocals until the bridge, dropping the trip below before an unexpected perfectly placed dance beat.
The Crypt doesn’t suppress the bright, indie pop sound while allowing them to spread their roots. “Spooktacular” and “ATM” clutch the best aspects of this new sound and run with them. The latter would sound unbelievable if acoustic accompanied by its piano punctuations. The only one that tries but stumbles back into the open grave is “Year Dot,” with keys that struggle to climb out amidst the high walls set by catchy claps and bass drums.
Sealing the stone slab over Kaleide is the closer “Smarts”. The revised take is more acoustic with a subtle, gentler feel given through echoing electric guitar and Katie Harkin’s singing. It feels full despite the suppressed drumming and bass, as if she was alone in the crypt with Doug and Nestor up above. Sky Larkin’s sophomore album keeps one foot in the past of The Golden Spike while tugging and transitioning towards new life.