It had been four years since the previous Tindersticks album. And this one was not released on Constellation Records, but rather on Lucky Dog. Whether or not that had anything to do with the sound of this record I don’t know, but I really like this album a lot.
“Follow Me” is a slow broody melancholy instrumental with a high accordion playing a lovely melody. It’s completely evocative. “Second Chance Man” has a kind of unsettling vibrato on Staples’ voice. But the melody (sparsely played initially on keyboards) is really catchy. The rest of the band fleshes out the sound after a verse and chorus. I love that it builds in the middle and then again at the end with horns lifting the gloom off the song. “Were We Once Lovers” has a thumping bass line and an uptempo feel as Staples’ sings in a kind of falsetto. I love the way all of the parts form together in the chorus that’s introduced by a simple but effective guitar: “How can I care if it’s the caring that’s killing me.”
“Help Yourself” opens with some soulful horn blasts and Staples’ whispered vocals. The bass keeps the song going as occasional horn blasts accent this strangely catchy song. Staples also sings in an uncharacteristically angsty style in this song, which is strangely unsettling as well. I love the way the song keeps circling round and then almost surprising the chorus when it comes back.
Whenever Tindersticks use a female guest vocalist, they really seem to step up their game. “Hey Lucinda” is an incredibly catchy song, starting with simple bells and an accordion playing a great melody. When Staples’ deep voice is balanced by the exotic voice of Lhasa, it makes for a great pairing. It’s unusual for a catchy song to be so spare, but the simple accordion accents really hold the song together before it takes off near the end.
“This fear of Emptiness” is another gentle instrumental with bass and acoustic guitar accompanied by accordion sections (sometimes dissonant near the end). “How He Entered” is another spare song with mostly bass and keys and an occasionally scratching sound as an ascent. But it’s still a very catchy melody.
“The Waiting Room” has that same echo on his voice as he slowly sings over a keyboard melody. His anguished singing of “don’t let me suffer” totally makes the song. “Planting Holes” is a short delicate instrumental with a sweet but melancholy keyboard riff running through it.
Perhaps the most dynamic song on the disc is “We Are Dreamers!” It’s the angriest song I can think of from Tindersticks, with rumbling keyboards and tribal beats as Staples sings bursts of vocals. But it’s when Savages’ singer Jehnny Beth adds her voice that the song turns really aggressive. They sing the chorus “This is not us/ We are dreamers!” And as Beth takes over the chorus, shifting pitch and intensity, Staples is commenting including lines like “You can rob us/ You can trick us/ Peer over our shoulders and steal our ideas”
The final song is “Like Only Lovers Can.” The delicate and pretty keyboards belie the sadness in the lyrics: “We can only hurt each other the way lovers can.” The quiet keyboards end the disc.
[READ: March 15, 2016] Castle Waiting Volume 2
I loved Castle Waiting. And I couldn’t wait to read Volume II.
And I loved it even more. Linda Medley is such an engaging storyteller. Her characters feel utterly real and funny and charming. I could read more and more and more from her. Which is why I am so bummed that the series ends here (with rumors that she is doing more).
This volume is a bit more playful. The characters are well-established and settling into their lives at the castle.
As in the previous volume, there are a lot of flashbacks to Jain’s childhood.
But there’s also a lot of wonderfully meandering stories in the present. The man who looks like a horse (literally) has injured his hoof, so he is hobbling around and is not as useful as he might be (and is cranky about it).
But the main story centers around the arrival of two dwarves, I mean hammerlings–only racists would say dwarves. They are the relatives of Henry, the quiet blacksmith (who is actually human, but was adopted by the dwarves). Henry is super excited to see them (as excited as his monosyllabic grunts allow him to be). Actually, we finally learn why he is so standoffish and quiet most of the time.
They are here for a very specific an(and embarrassing) purpose. They need women’s clothes for the human who works with them back home.
Their presence enlivens everyone in the Castle. They are fun and interesting–enjoying hard work and being very playful. It is with their help that the Castle dwellers do some remodeling, find a booby trap and even learn how to play nine pin bowling. The older women who still live in the castle take some bets about who will win–with much merriment. I love that there a whole chapter about them bowling.
There’s a subplot about Jain’s son Pindar being a leshie–a species we learn a bit about, although we also learn that they are extinct. This plot line is never concluded properly, though.
We also finally learn about Doctor and his crazy mask (it was a sort of gas mask for the plague). They are all worried about his sanity, especially when he starts walking around wishing everyone a happy Yule (the Christmas stocking subplot is outstanding).
Speaking of Jain, she has decided to move into the Castle (where there is indeed a ghost). But her kindness appeases the ghost somewhat. Especially when she teaches Simon to read (I love the scene where he learns to read and then sits at the table reading instead of eating–just like in my house).
There’s a hilarious thread about a very stubborn goat (whom Simon can outsmart). And a multi-chapter thread about Sister trying to get a cross for Jain’s room. We finally get to the bottom of the house sprites (they are adorable when we finally find out what they want). Finishhtory! Finit! Reetoomee.
I am so attached to these characters, that I need to hear more about them.
As in the previous book,Medley’s art is simply gorgeous. She does realism like no one I know and her characters have an awesome blend of realism and hyper-realism that makes them so enjoyable to look at (and unbelievably detailed as well).
There have been a number of graphic novels that I have gotten completely attached to, but none like this. It was so bittersweet to finish this, knowing there’d be no more–but holding out hope for a surprise some day.