The acoustic guitar scales dance with trickles of piano and the occasional tip-tip-tapping of drums, singer-songwriter Katerina Papachristouâ€™s breathy vocals leading the way. It is a magical stew, one concocted with ease, even with solemnity. And this is how weâ€™re introduced to The Light, the newest offering from Tango With Lions, one of Greeceâ€™s most renowned English-language bands.
The record is amazingly accessible and goes down easy, a kind of ballad-heavy, pop or pop-rock record â€“ in the classic sense â€“ with gallons of substance to spare. But thereâ€™s also a richness and earthiness to the recording that lends even the most spare moments elements of indie-folk, and Papachristouâ€™s vocals bely shades of her acoustic singer-songwriter roots.
On â€œBack To One,â€ the aforementioned opener, the gentle 1-2-3-4 roll of a snare fits in perfect time with the finger-picked acoustic measure, an ideal backdrop for Papachristou to gently push out her reverb-tinged harmonies. â€œProof of Desireâ€ is an impeccably recorded blues number (you can hear the fingers and guitar-pick scrape against the strings) whose most important moment is either the rock explosion at the end or, earlier on, the accompanying electric guitar, which wouldnâ€™t be out of place in one of Bonnie â€œPrinceâ€ Billyâ€™s songs. â€œLast Thrillâ€ is a pop-rock gem, where bright guitars, tight drum-work and a bouncy bass are overshadowed only by a backing vocal track on the chorus â€“ â€œba-ba-BAH-BAHâ€ â€“ and some trumpet accompaniment that are simply, utterly delicious.
And this is just the first three songs.
Weâ€™ve known for nearly 10 years now that Tango With Lions was a force to be reckoned with. But, following A Long Walk, the band is geared up to show listeners just how sharp the musical knife cuts. â€œPhoeniciaâ€ is a brightly colored acoustic number that exudes charisma and positivity, while the title track goes Frisell-faux-electric to wondrous effect. On the other side of the spectrum (but only a few songs later) is the moody, gray â€œThe Go Betweens,â€ which shows Black Heart Procession a thing or two about storm clouds and musical saws. (Between them is the rollicking acoustic-driven â€œWhat Youâ€™ve Become,â€ a single if the record has one.) They close the proceedings with the spare, found-sound-laced â€œLâ€™Ombre,â€ an unusual curtain-call but a fitting end to a record that keeps you paying attention, never quite knowing what to expect lurking around the next corner.
Let it be said: Papachristou alone is reason enough for checking out the LP, out now on Inner Ear. She exudes a warmth but also a staggering command of the songs that helps drive the whole record. This is a woman who knows what she wants and knows how to deliver. But the band is not an afterthought and neither are the songs. The Light is a wondrous little record, at once vulnerable and assured in its presentation, and worth finding.