Lawrence Arabia, Chant Darling
Lawrence Arabia is James Milne, a New Zealand native whose Beatlesque songwriting recalls another Kiwi singer/songwriter — Crowded House's Neil Finn. In fact, Neil's son Liam Finn, who has mined similar territory with his own solo work, makes a guest appearance on the stellar Chant Darling. Milne, who had previously played with groups like Okkervil River, The Brunettes, and The Ruby Suns, employs self-deprecating lyricism and quirky, vaguely psychedelic '60s pop references to great effect, often achieving the kind of moments of greatness that made other contemporary purveyors of retro pop like Jon Brion or Aimee Mann so successful. Yet for all its 60s pastiche and retro classicism, Chant Darling does at points capture the 00s indie pop feel of groups like Phoenix or Peter, Bjorn, and John —making it a worthwhile listen for fans of great, smart pop both past and present.