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Hello New World

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Album Review

If moody rock groups that emphasize slow deliberation over riffing craziness abound in huge numbers these days, it's still something where an inspired group can create an enjoyable record that stands out from the pack. The U.K. act the Playing Fields find on their debut an inspiration that predates the 21st century, thankfully — namely, hints and flecks (but never full-on copying) from various shoegaze-touched and darkly hushed groups from the early '90s. Sometimes it's in a sudden guitar solo, sometimes in the delicate texture of the instrumental blend, but Hello New World is the kind of good, late-night summer album where things grow dark but warm, where the pain articulated in the lyrics ("Lights Out" is particularly harrowing) is offset by a calm restraint. Fronted by guitarists and singers Mike and Steve (no last names are given in the credits), the band has a deft sound thanks to various instrumental talents in it, with credit especially due to Hannah, who plays both violin and glockenspiel, adding a genteel art-pop edge to the arrangements. Things are never overly busy — anything but: while hardly showing Low-level minimalism, the band makes the most of understatement, as on the delicate, half-country flow of "The Girl in the Machine" and the more uptempo, almost Cure-like "Glass & Concrete." Occasionally a rumbling number like "Protect the Humans" will crank up the angst and damage, while the concluding title track ends on a soaring build of guitar and singing, but in the end the Playing Fields suggest a never-never land of groups like the early days of the Sundays, the Black Watch, Downy Mildew, and the first bands on Spinart Records — a time of calm, beautiful and slightly sad glaze.

Hello New World, The Playing Fields
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