The Late Night Tales series seem to be gradually moving out of a gently twisted and strung out run of late to something a little more approachable. First Metronomy seemed unafraid to embrace a bit of pop on their turn and now Friendly Fires leave any downer-based paranoia at the door.
It's a change that has the potential to be a bit of a mixed blessing but it actually suits our latest comperes well. Never a band for anything less than pure effervescent passion it is fitting that the same mood exists here and that they are not weighed down with some hammy requirement to demonstrate their knowledge of Nick Cave's back catalogue or the like.
There are still tempo changes and the set moves through several fairly distinct movements. After starting with an earlier Junior Boys track ('Under The Sun') we are treated to a number of disco records. These include Dennis Parker's always fabulous 'Like An Eagle' as a highlight and the disco ultimately peaks as it ends with a beautiful transition from 'Carry On Turn Me On' by Space into Iron Galaxy's 'Attention Seeker'.
The latter is one of the more contemporary tracks on here and it probably deserves its own blog post - it is utterly brilliant. Starting with a tight house beat full of reverb and a short vocal snippet it opens up, flower-like, to become an entrancing, warm electronic masterpiece. The drums loosen up and eventually the whole track sounds like it is submerged beneath water - a lovely squiggly acid bass line drawing this track into the next one in the mix. It's an utterly perfect combination of old and new, feeling utterly timeless. To make things even better the track that follows is almost just as good - Bibio's 'Don't Summarise My Summer Eyes' is all heavy, fuzzy beats and looping, shimmering vocals.
Friendly Fires' token newbie 'Why Don't You Answer' ends an (admittedly very eclectic but) mostly electronic section - it may not be their single best song to date but the chugging bass and repeated vocal refrain create an excited upbeat counterpoint to what follows.
Things are more leftfield from here but still retain an immediacy - even the Cocteau Twins and Slowdive fit in to the arc of the album without too much of an issue in terms of inertia. Olivia Newton-John and Nils Frahm provide the final two tracks - it's a juxtaposition that feels a little joke-like but Frahm's 'Over There, It's Raining' is a beautiful conclusion to any album.
I tend to skip the audio book section that ends the Late Night Tales albums but this one, the first in a new series (they generally unfold over a few albums), is read by Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy fame. It's rather good so worth checking out.