Since their first album London’s The Hanging Stars have changed band members and opened their eyes a little beyond the charming indie/americana of their first full length. For their second full length – Songs for Somewhere Else, Recorded in Bark Studios, Walthamstow – hardly Laurel Canyon I grant you, but it can get sunny there sometimes and there’s a cracking pie and mash shop, the band deal in sunshine, Byrds influenced pop a lot of the time, but mix it up with things of a more angular nature now and again.
It opens with the rather lovely ‘On a sweet summers day’, which sounds exactly like you’d want it to, swooning guitars and sunshine melodies cracking the flags in front of you, but then the album takes a left turn with the Coral-esque Too Many Wired Hours, which sounds straight out of the Deltasonic cannon. And that’s sums the album up – part americana, part – well, everything else, and it comes across as both a strength and a distraction.
The band seem more at ease when dealing in the Americana they’re more well known for, album closer Water Song and Dig A Hole particularly good, with this mariachi trumpet sound in the latter and country melancholy shining through in the latter, while the pedal steel, prevalent in both tracks also plays a big part in How I got this Way, and also plays a part in the Beatles like melodies of Honeywater. Elsewhere though, there’s the chiming piano led instrumental Djupsjon, and the lovable shuffling indie pop of Pick up the Fences.
Stranger still is Mean old Man, thing spaghetti western Morricone mixed with stuttering indie rock. In some ways a fabulous distraction, in others mystifying in the context of the album. I tend to give The Hanging Stars the benefit of the doubt, and Songs for Somewhere Else is generally a collection of solid and often lovely songs. Maybe they just need to reign in their experimental nature, just while they make the incredible record that they’re so capable of. This time was close, very close.