Mojave 3 has never had any trouble reaching out and sweeping the listener off his tired feet. After three albums of gentle lullaby pop music, infected only slightly by folk and country roots, the British five-piece has again delivered a record full of dreamy gems. Each of the 10 tracks on Spoon and Rafter is strung together by beautiful melodies, well-placed breaks and almost ghostly vocal pitch. Unfortunately, the listener isn’t treated to any exclusively Rachel Goswell lead vocal tracks, as central songwriter Neil Halstead assumes these duties on Spoon. But the perfect balance of hushed Brit shoegazer and spacious pop leaves little to be desired.
“Bluebird of Happiness” quite literally takes your hand and walks down the path of what will be a most glorious journey through personal sentiments and the ever-present need to “get back home.” It’s the album’s leadoff track and is an epic-length suite of piano, slide guitar and looming looped beeps. Halstead’s “gotta find a road” home on this one, and as the nine-minute symphony progresses, folks are going to wish he never quite makes it, as to prevent the song from ending.
After about three and a half minutes, drums, organ and presumably the rest of the band enters to offer a hand in getting Neil back home. It’s absolutely gorgeous here; a moment of Zen bliss constructed in Mojave 3’s highly personal but orchestral manner. This is the effective formula employed in Mojave faves such as 1996’s “Love Songs on the Radio,” sounding just as desperate as Goswell had but not quite as otherworldly.
“Bluebird’s” theme is suggested on the album’s storybook spring day cover art; a portrait of flowers and a barren meadow just far enough away from home to seem like an eternity of distance. This spacey good-natured mood bookends the album, as closer “Between the Bars” is an almost playful country ballad characterized by banjo, pedal steel guitar and piano. Mojave 3’s intimate balladry shines all throughout, though, specifically on “She’s All Up Above” and “Too Many Mornings.”
Halstead and Goswell trade soaring harmonies on “Too Many Mornings,” a deceiving ode to past tense relationship woes. The deception lies not in the content, rather in both the content and surface of the mid-tempo dramatic track. On the surface, “Mornings” is a cheery California Summer of Love-sounding frolic through Spoon and Rafter‘s decorated cover art. But the hushed vocals elaborate on an entirely different tale of heartbreak and lonesome mornings. At the minor key bridge, the two mull over a possible healing point: “It don’t take much / Before you lose touch / Yeah you’re all right / You lose it all / You bring it back again.” The la la las hint at a sense of hopefulness, but the dreary lovesick subject matter remains regardless.
Spoon and Rafter is another chapter of Mojave 3’s willingness to craft quiet, pleasant albums. The ingredients remain consistent here while the recipe is altered a tad bit, bringing another helping of meaningful pop music to record store shelves.