Modern Studies’ first album was a lovely pastoral piece of folk-pop, built up around the sound of an old harmonium. Since then seemingly every hipster-Adam-Boyle-type has got themsleves a harmonium, and so it’s good to hear Modern Studies filling out their sound more.
The vibe is still relatively downbeat, but trombones and strings are more to the fore and there’s even some atmospheric rock guitar leeching in to provide plenty of moments of light. Some of the songs are mannered and stately, other a bit looser in feel. But all of them sound wonderful – a warm, sumptuous tone glows out of every turn of the LP. It’s a grown-up collection of pop songs, but in a good way – earnest but with a consistent lightness of touch in taking sounds from across numerous decades and blending them into an attractive whole. The overall effect is not a million miles away from what Lambchop achieved, but with UK folk rather than country as its base DNA.
Which makes Welcome Strangers a slowly unfolding delight, an album perfect for the season, for sending off the sun at the end of a long evening.