While the lighter touch appeals, all too often the songs themselves get blown away.
Label: Tough Love
Released: 20th January 2017
After a chance encounter involving boots, a vintage clothes shop and a light-fingered ex, James Hoare (Veronica Falls/Ultimate Painting) and TOY’s Max Oscarnold released their first full-length as The Proper Ornaments back in 2014.
If their name – from a song by late ‘60s New York harmony-poppers The Free Design – suggested sunny-side up breezy listening, ‘Wooden Head’ was a lot more rough-hewn, heavy on worn and fuzzily indistinct indie tropes.
Two-and-a-bit years on, ‘Foxhole’ is an airier prospect, thanks in part to what Hoare calls a “happy accident” with a broken studio tape machine leading the band to substitute more sparse, intimate home recordings. This suits the stronger songs well. The harmony-laden ‘Back Pages 2’ is a warm, reflective stroll, even if the Byrds-via-Mark Gardner vocals and guitar arpeggios suggest more vintage kleptomania, and the hypnotic, gently pulsating ‘Cremated (Blown Away)’ a quieter counterpart to Ultimate Painting’s Bills. Elsewhere, the melancholy Lennonisms of ‘Memories’ and ‘Bridge By a Tunnel’ impress.
Mostly, though, it’s rather unmemorable, the softer settings doing little to paper over the weaker tracks. ‘Just A Dream’ drags, not so much dreamlike as curled-up, hungover, and ‘1969’ is only lifted by the introduction of a synth melody at the chorus.
The second side has a pair of Floyd-esque highlights in the darker, downbeat psychedelia of ‘Jeremy’s Song’ – giving the album its title (“keep your head down/in the foxhole”) – and the brief, reminiscent ‘When We Were Young’, but overall it’s unfortunate that – thanks to Hoare’s work rate – this comes so hot on the heels of Ultimate Painting’s fine ‘Dusk’ (along with TOY’s ‘Clear Shot’). While the lighter touch appeals, all too often – as the chorus of ‘Cremated’ suggests – the songs themselves get blown away. Rob Mesure