The opening notes of Street of the Love of Days should tell you quite a bit about the album. That quiet Spanish guitar, those haunting piano notes, the hollow sound of bouzouki — it’s all familiar and alien, laid-back yet haunting. For an album and band (Amor de Dias translates as “Love of Days”) who claim to appreciate daylight, these songs sound awfully noctural at times. The Clientele’s Alistair Maclean and Pipas’ Lupe Nunez-Fernandez have come together to craft an endlessly dreamy record, a hushed set of lullabies that confort even as a faint chill sometimes runs through them.
Nunez-Fernandez proves the more versatile of the two singers on the record. Her whispery vocals can seem light and playful on “Bunhill Fields” or darkly confessional on opener “Foxes.” She also proves comfortable as a bilingual singer, so much so you might find yourself not noticing she’s shifted into Spanish until well after its happened. As perhaps the lesser known of these two performers, Nunez-Fernandez is a welcome surprise on the record, a musician capable of swirling riffs on the guitar and unpredictable yet arresting vocal turns.
For his part, MacLean spends much of this record reimagining his recent work with the Clientele, with often fascinating results. “Harvest Time,” which was originally recorded for 2009’s Bonfires on the Heath, is the most obvious example, but the spare acoustic guitars and jazzy bass work here don’t really resemble the original version, and in some ways they improve upon those lush layers. Other places find him repurposing phrases from that album by mentioning “laughing windows” in the title track or how “I See Your Face” surely recalls the Clientele’s “I Know I Will See Your Face.” The best stuff on this album, though, casts MacLean’s songwriting in a new light, highlighting his intricate but tuneful guitar work that weaves its way through the light horn swells, the jazz-influences structures, and the occasional shift into a bossa nova shuffle.
Street of the Love of Days was recorded in fits and starts by MacLean and Nunez-Fernandez over three years. But instead of seeming disjointed as a result, the album comes off as surprisingly cohesive and self-assured. These two players, often both on Spanish guitar, communicate well on record and the instruments around them — though consistently spare — fill up the echo around them at just the right times. As with most records this consistently hushed, this album threatens on occasion to slip from dreamy to sleepy, and a couple of MacLean’s tracks — good though they are — sound an awful lot like the Clientele. Still, this is one of those great early-morning or late-night records. It’s quiet but it gets your attention, surrounds you, and makes you feel a part of it all the way through.