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Neptune

The Duke Spirit

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Album Review

Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that Neptune sounds so much more polished and cohesive than the Duke Spirit's first album, Cuts Across the Land. After all, their debut was culled from years' worth of singles and EPs, while this album was recorded almost three years after Cuts Across the Land was ready for release. At any rate, it's a pleasant surprise: on Neptune, the Duke Spirit don't just focus their music, they expand on it, too. For the album's sessions, the band reunited with producer Chris Goss, who they worked with on "Mayday," their song for UNKLE's 2007 album, War Stories, and it's clear from the hymn-like opening track, "I Do Believe," that Neptune boasts more studiocraft than anything the Duke Spirit did before. Fans of the band's scuzzy, experimental side will miss the rawness that Cuts Across the Land had in spades, but chances are they won't miss it for long, because Neptune's songs are just as compelling as they are polished. "Send a Little Love Token" and "Into the Fold" show off the band's formidable rock, even if they're not as serrated as they would've been had they appeared on Cuts Across the Land, while "The Step and the Walk" shows how the album's polish sets off Liela Moss' tough but graceful singing. More than ever, her richly raspy vocals are the band's focal point: she's crisply self-assured even on the bluest songs, such as the lunging ballad "Dog Roses," and unsinkable on "This Ship Was Built to Last," a churning blues-rocker that sways to and fro between surging brass and slide guitar like a boat caught in a storm. The other bandmembers stretch to match Moss' newfound versatility, often with striking and unexpected results. The group's Sonic Youth fetish resurfaces with "You Really Wake Up the Love in Me," which ignites the sexy buzz of "Sugar Kane" with more hooks and passion as Moss wails "You always stir up the sea." Then they follow that song with the album's biggest surprise, "My Sunken Treasure," sweetly soulful pop with bouncy pianos straight out of Motown. For every tempest like "Lassoo" or "Neptune's Call," there's an unabashedly pretty moment like the almost serene "Wooden Heart" or "Sovereign," either of which would have been completely out of place on Cuts Across the Land — but it's the depth, power, and flair of moves like these that make Neptune the real introduction to the Duke Spirit.

Biography

Formed: 2002 in London, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The brash, bluesy, female-fronted quintet the Duke Spirit formed when singer/harmonica player Liela Moss met guitarist/keyboardist/singer Luke Ford at art school. Moss was studying photography and Ford painting, but the pair decided to ditch school and move to London to focus on their music. Once they arrived, their friend Toby Butler joined on as bassist/percussionist, and one of their roommates, Dan Higgins, became their guitarist. Once drummer Olly Betts joined their ranks, the lineup was complete....
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Neptune, The Duke Spirit
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