Album review: The Hanging Stars – A New Kind Of Sky

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Words by Lady Godiva

Perpetually enlightening us mere mortals with their transatlantic constellation, British troubadours The Hanging Stars are back with a solid third record as intriguing as its sepia artwork, giving the lure of a bygone era whilst being rooted in today’s troubled times.

Still wearing their influences on their sleeves in the wisest manner, The Hanging Stars’ new collection of songs is a patchwork that sprawls from the beginnings of cosmic American music to the more contemporary. Carefully wrapped in delicious layers of pastoralism, A New Kind Of Sky opens with the dreamlike tune ‘Choir of Criers’, featuring their longtime sidekick Collin Hegna, formerly from The Brian Jonestown Massacre, on marxophone, giving a taste of Laurel Canyon circa 1968. 

While ‘I Woke Up In July’ keeps the listener in a daydream, ‘These Rolling Hills’ adds some spice to the mix, with Sean Read of the Rockingbirds playing those delightfully festive horns, the song reminiscing on an adventure in the hills of Marin County, California, to visit their stateside cousins The Asteroid No. 4. The connection between both bands is endearing and elegantly filled with Byrdsian legacy. 

‘I’ve Seen The Summer In Her Eyes’ encompasses bassist Sam Ferman singing lead vocals in a more contemporary, slightly garage-y sounding track before the sun-kissed bliss of ‘Heavy Blue’, a country tale sprinkled with gold dust, in the timeless style of The Flying Burrito Brothers.

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The Hanging Stars

 If The Hanging Stars needed a hit to broaden their fan base, they have definitely nailed it with ‘I Will Please You’,  a groovy, catchy and all-round perfect pop song that instantly lifts your spirits, although its underlying meaning is far darker than it appears at first as it is seen through the prism of the victim of a cult leader. Tom Waits once said ‘I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things. If you feel the same, you’ll find this to be a memorable example.’

‘Lonely Rivers’ might remind one of Buffalo Springfield’s ‘Bluebird’, taking the listener far beyond the shores of Albion, epitomising the band’s bucolic escapism. A cosmic number full of mental images that gives the impression of flying over the scenic landscapes of the West Coast. 

The title track ‘A New Kind Of Sky’ closes the record on a reflective note, questioning a past that was once idealised but never existed, or rather not as it was perceived. This may sound familiar to those of us who find solace in the flawless aesthetics of the sixties and seventies, in its art, counterculture, fashion and legends – but many of us were not even born then, so how can we be nostalgic of a time we didn’t know? This also calls for new beginnings and a different mindset. Whilst the London quintet may seem torn between past and present, they’re able to use a bright canvas of influences yet smartly overcome them, owning their own sound and shining in their own right. 

A New Kind Of Light is out now on vinyl, CD and digitally

MOOF Magazine will be DJing at the Hanging Stars’ album launch on February 26th alongside DJ Sunday Girl at Moth Club, Hackney – tickets on Dice

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