Rozi Plain – Friend (4 stars)

Synth-folk shanties to die for, with help from Alexis ‘Hot Chip’ Taylor and François & the Atlas Mountains

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Rozi Plain – Friend

Rozi Plain’s third album opens on a contemplative note: ‘It will be reported to be a difficult year, a tumultuous year,’ she sings on ‘Actually’.

A sadness pervades this collection of songs, nostalgia too, but as much as Plain may be looking backwards with her words, her sound pushes brightly forward.

But back to that first track, because it’s special: a song about not getting over it, but deciding to be OK with that, it has a keyboard riff to die for, the very definition of uplifting and summery and nimble. Nothing else on this record quite matches its sparkle, but that’s more a reflection on the first song’s brilliance than a slight on the other nine.

Fittingly for an album that pays tribute to friends, it features lots of them, including Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip and Plain’s This is the Kit bandmate Jamie Whitby-Coles on drums. But it’s the two members of François & the Atlas Mountains, Amaury Ranger and Gerard Black, whose presence is most strongly felt, especially in the gently bouncing afrobeat grooves of ‘Friend City’.

Of course, the influence no doubt goes both ways, as Plain, François Marry and various Atlas Mountains have all been playing in each other’s bands for years (Plain dated the lead singer for a while too). But those lazily circling guitars familiar from 2012’s Joined Sometimes Unjoined have here been topped off with Gerard Black’s atmospheric synths, and to great effect.

A lot of the charm in these songs is to be found in Plain’s unaffected, almost childlike vocals. It seems she likes to play with words, repeating them and turning them inside out until it doesn’t matter what they’re saying any more; they’re just sounds that fit a mood and a moment. The mood is wistful and the moment is somewhere in the hazy past, and the soundtrack is just right.

Friend is released on Mon 4 May on Lost Map.

Actually

Rozi Plain

Enchanting understated music from Fence Records' Plain.

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