Review of Sky Larkin's debut album 'The Golden Spike' released through Wichita.
Leeds three-piece Sky Larkin seem to have been on the radar for quite a while now. As with many bands from what is arguably this nation's most creative city of recent times, they initially came to light via one of the many compilations that set the packs of industry wolves heading up the M1 in droves around the middle of 2006 while debut single 'One Of Two' was released almost two years ago to the day by.yes you've guessed it, local uber-label Dance To The Radio.
Since then, the odd 45 withstanding, its been pretty quiet as far as public sightings of Katie Harkin, Doug Adams and Nestor Matthews go; fear not however, as they haven't been lazing around doing nothing. On the contrary in fact, instead they've been holed up in a Seattle recording studio with esteemed producer John Goodmanson, acclaimed for his work with the likes of Death Cab For Cutie, Nada Surf and Sepultura among others, but more recently credited with turning Los Campesinos!' 'We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed' into an understated masterpiece.
What is apparent on 'The Golden Spike' is that Sky Larkin have set out to remove any notions that they are merely just another twee indie band, something which threatened to litter their name, particularly in light of their early, competent-but-unspectacular live shows. While Harkin's vocal has developed a spirited rasp not that dissimilar to Bjork's early forays with the Sugarcubes, the rhythm-cum-noise section of Matthews and Adams also sound revitalised and energised to the point where at times, its hard to believe there are only three musicians at work here.
The decisive factor that sets Sky Larkin apart from most of their peers though emanates via the quality of their songs. While some cynics may observe that a good half of the songs on this record have already seen the light of day previously, the re-recorded versions here sound more immediate, almost anthemic at times, and totally out of kilter with any preconceived notions older listeners of the band may have developed in the past. Many of the plaudits for this transformation will obviously be laid at Goodmanson's door, but let's not take anything away from the band either. Rather than adding to an already impressive repertoire of material, they've chosen instead to hone and improve what they've already got, and sound a much more confident, and ultimately better outfit in the process.
What's more, pretty much every track on 'The Golden Spike' could be a single, particularly the gorgeous, lolloping headrush of 'Somersault' and the stalker-fixated waltz of 'Keepsakes', which still sounds buoyantly fresh a good two years or so after its first airing as a demo way back when.
The fact they've taken so long recording and finalising their debut record is a clear indication that Sky Larkin mean business, and with a finished product as good as 'The Golden Spike', 2009 promises to be a good year indeed for yet another superlative Leeds export.