Sky Larkin, Kaleide
Equal parts head-banging material and brain food
Leeds trio Sky Larkin, growing in confidence and focus, seem to receive more acclaim outside their homeland than in it. This may be because, for all their classic old-school U.K. indie tropes — scratchy guitars, ramshackle drums, overt displays of literacy — they sound more spiritually akin to the great American female-led outfits. Their second album, again recorded in Seattle with Sleater-Kinney producer John Goodmanson, pulls them further from the stylings of Sleeper and Elastica and closer to the blueprints established by Belly and The Breeders. Like their forebears, they revel in abrupt rhythm shifts, surprising (sometimes exhausting) song structures, and an ability to smuggle potentially pretentious lyrical intricacies in via aggressive riffing. On first listen, Kaleide is for banging your head to. Second time around, it proves to be food for the brain.
Singer/guitarist Katie Harkin thinks nothing (or, more accurately perhaps, thinks long and hard) of penning songs utilising scientific analogies that will baffle non-boffins, presumably as metaphors for relationships. "I know there's potential," she posits during busy opener "Still Windmills," and the track's no-prisoners energy means she could be eulogising the album at hand. "Kaleide" itself bustles in, the band demonstrably more cocksure than on 2009 debut The Golden Spike, racing between tempos and themes. Drummer Nestor Matthews and bassist Doug Adams are relentlessly heavy, and by the midway point you wouldn't object if everybody calmed down for a breather. They're the necessary ballast, however, to Harkin's pitchy voice and guitar. She can wail like Björk one minute, sneer like Karen O the next. It's an exhilarating ride.
Angular post-punk shapes dominate the bulk of tracks, with a hint of Maximo Park infiltrating "Tiny Heist", the clattering "Landlocked" and the crunching "Spooktacular". The only respite comes in the enigmatic "Angelica Huston," which name-checks the actress with gluey hooks. While they could use some shade to counter the blinding light, this is a rich, rampant album and you'll be, to quote the title track, "nothing if not impressed."