Spanning the cover of Bronze Age, the new album from The Kingsbury Manx -- and their first in four years -- is a painting by the artist M. Scott Myers (see below). On it, he depicts a beautiful expanse of ocean, still and waiting. The sky is blue, the seas are calm; it's perhaps the perfect day for a sail. Flip the album over, however, and the boat waiting on the back is not bobbing in the dock, it's grounded at the water's edge. But while the masts are sail-less, the thing is hardly abandoned -- a set of stairs leads to the deck; the sides are gleaming white. This particular boat needs no seafaring -- its best place is nestled just in view of horizon's infinity.
It's also a way to think about the career of The Kingsbury Manx, the long-running psych-folk foursome from Chapel Hill, N.C. Over the course of six full-length albums, the group -- Bill Taylor, Ryan Richardson, Clarque Blomquist and Paul Finn -- has eschewed trends, instead refining the craft they know. Their chamber pop has spark and crackle, the kind of warmth that is full of familiarity without formula. It's been said that they first emerged fully fashioned, but they're tinkerers, constantly pulling their sound apart and putting it back together.
Bronze Age (out Mar. 5th) is an album of lovingly arranged melodic pop, full of vintage tools like Finn's Farfisa, Hammond B3 and Minimoog, and guitarist and songwriter Taylor's wit and wordplay. The song "In The Catacombs" turns the rhythm of one word into a sweet bop, while "How Things Are Done" begins with introspection: "What we are / Two would-be lovers who never held one another," Taylor sings before the song unfurls intro a dreamy, rippling coda. Elsewhere, "Concubine" quietly muses, "Caught you smiling with your arms tied up / Are you still drinking from that lonely cup?"
Towards the latter half of the album comes the uptempo, synth-driven "Solely Bavaria." Taylor sings of telling jokes that fail to land, when "All at once I feel like I'm catching on." For nearly fifteen years, The Kingsbury Manx has inhabited its own deliberate space on music's continuum. They like where they are, and as such have tended toward quiet releases. But they're kings of pastoral pop.
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