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Album Review

Frontman Jason Pegg lands in the production seat for Clearlake's third album, Amber. Recording in eight studios between England and France and with a little help from producers Steve Osborne (U2, Happy Mondays, Placebo) and Jim Abbiss (Kasabian, DJ Shadow, Editors), Clearlake have created a vibrant follow-up to their 2003 release, Cedars. With the success of that album and tours with Stereolab and the Decemberists, Clearlake are now on the indie rock map alongside the likes of British Sea Power, Doves, and Idlewild. Such a progression has allowed Clearlake's confidence to mature, and it is a bit more apparent throughout this 12-song set. Amber sounds the way the band should: tight, surefire, and aware. Lyrically, frontman Pegg does not overdo it. Clearlake's lyrics, thus far in their career, are simple and exact. That approach fits the band nicely, for Clearlake have never pretended to be arty (think Interpol) or too intellectual (like British Sea Power). Amber builds upon those notions once again for some of Clearlake's best material to date. Their classic, lush instrumentation has taken the experimental route; their usual pop overtones are now bit more shifty and edgy. Their hidden optimism is a bit more tucked away on Amber, too. The title itself is appropriate; as they develop a more current indie rock sound, Clearlake are surrounded by imagined hues of yellow and gold amidst a blackish background. "No Kind of Life" is brilliant. Drummer Toby May delivers a maddening rush, coiling with Pegg's polished harmonies and fuzzed-out guitar work for an anthemic album opener. The album title track is a slow storm of string arrangements, percussion, and pianos, accentuating the brooding, fiery colors of Amber. If Clearlake's melodic side is more interesting, songs such as "You Can't Have Me" and "It's Getting Light Outside" are sure fits — however, Clearlake also showcase a newfound bravado. "Good Clean Fun" and "Here to Learn" saunter through layered electric guitars and sexy basslines for some of the band's boldest work yet. "Neon" blasts on with that in mind, too, with a blistering harmonica and plunging instrumentation. Clearlake got it right this time out. They have has never sounded as triumphant as they do on Amber.


Formed: January, 2000 in England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Formed in the English seaside town of Hove, Clearlake's eccentric take on music has baffled, bewildered, and beguiled both the press and public since they debuted with the "Winterlight" single in January 2000 on the Domino offshoot label Dusty Company. Jason Pegg (vocals/guitar/keyboards), who had moved to the town to attend art college, played in oddball combos the Fish Brothers and Not a Bit of Wood before forming Clearlake with college friend Sam Hewitt (keyboards/samples). Bassist David Woodward...
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Amber, Clearlake
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