Crooked Colours have never been a group that do things half-heartedly. Since their first release in 2013, they’ve crafted a sound that is uniquely theirs. Their live show is vibrant and ever-changing, and each track they release is well thought out. It’s not surprising then, that the Perth trio have been working hard on the follow up to 2017’s Vera, a debut album which set a very high standard for the band. Langata, their sophomore LP, is exactly what fans of the band will be wanting. It’s more polished and darker than Vera, but there are some standout tracks that eclipse their previous releases.
The album kicks off with ‘I’ll Be There’. It starts with an electronic marimba-esque beat, before vocalist Philip Slabber comes in with a lazy croon. You have to listen carefully to catch everything he says, and at points he’s overrun by the production. With the addition of some choral vocals in the chorus, it’s the perfect encapsulation of a summer Sunday afternoon.
Title track ‘Langata’ has this repetitive guitar loop that allows Slabber to really showcase his singing style. The vocal sampling over the guitar loop later in the song is reminiscent of the sampling style of London duo Maribou State. It’s something a little different to what we’ve heard from Crooked Colours in the past, and it works well.
We’ve already heard ‘Do It Like You’, but that doesn’t diminish its power within the album. It sees the trio returned to the plucked guitar strings that worked so well on Vera’s ‘Flow’. It’s pretty easy to see why this was picked as a single. While somewhat similar to ‘Flow’, it’s more upbeat and relies more heavily on Slabber’s vocals. It’s a good reflection of the evolution the band has taken over the past few years.
The highlight of the album is ‘Just Breathe’. Initially it’s a bit slower and quieter than other tracks, but it builds into something euphoric. It’s hard to avoid a RÜFÜS DÜ SOL comparison here – the echoing falsetto around the two-minute mark is similar to that used frequently by the Sydney group. However, Crooked Colours put their own spin on this style. Pitched-down vocals are particularly well utilised in the chorus, and the layered production is never overpowering. It’s a track that deserves multiple listens to fully appreciate everything that’s going on.
‘I C Light’ is a close runner-up to ‘Just Breathe’. It’s a moody track with an earworm chorus. The band says the track is about a “character [who] is caught up in trying to be famous”. This is captured pretty well through the lyrics and the heaviness of the production. A particular highlight is the low spoken word lines underneath the chorus. This added menacing layer works well in contrast with Slabber’s repeated lines, and distinguishes ‘I C Light’ from the other tracks on the album.
‘Never Dance Alone’, featuring Ladyhawke, is a slow burner. On first listen it’s not that impressive, but with a few more tries it became almost addictive. The early back and forth between Slabber and Ladyhawke is something new from Crooked Colours. The distinct styles of both vocalists helps the song flow between them, making Ladyhawke a good choice for the track. However, the best part is when the electronic melody kicks in around the 2.20 mark. From here, it’s very easy to see crowds raving along in flashing lights.
Closer ‘Lose Someone’ is a bit weaker than the rest of Langata. It has the slow, drawn out feel of an album ender, so it does fulfil that role well, but as a standalone track it isn’t great. That being said, it’s the only song that doesn’t quite meet the mark, and having nine out of ten tracks on an album work is an impressive achievement.
Overall, Langata is a strong second offering from the band. It’s an album that shows the experience gained by the trio in just a few years, with a bit more complexity than their debut. With the singles already well received by festival audiences, Crooked Colours can rest assured that the whole album will be embraced by fans too.
Review – Georgia Griffiths