Everything is more optimistic, but without the counterbalance for the pop, the band seem in danger of sounding a little too cheesy or naff – an art school tribute to Architecture In Helsinki or the like.
Not as immediately enveloping as its predecessor, it would be easy to, on first listen, chalk Optica up as little more than a reaction to Work in the form of a safe return to their earlier, shimmering and slightly over-the-top sound. They spent a year and a half in the studio self-producing album number four and the layers of orchestral flourishes – a slowed and elegant coda in opener Sugar for example, or the pastoral whispers of flute on Walking In Your Footsteps, regal horns and strings in closer Destroy – are worlds apart from the moody subtlety of Work.
While repeat listens reveal more to love in Optica, they also highlight the sad realisation that the bells and whistles are sugar-coating an album that is (with the exception of moments of brilliance like the dark disco of 14th Of July, the powerpop-cum-dream sequence that is Glasgow, or the apocalyptic vocal interjections in Hermila, for instance) largely bland and leaning on gimmicks like the Caribbean jangle of Chasing The Sinking Sun or the hip hop false start of Circles.
This week new sets drop from Thy Art Is Murder, Refused, Batpiss and more.