Songs You May Have Missed #563

high llamas

The High Llamas: “Pilgrims” (1996)

There are albums that, on first listen, are difficult to absorb due to their sheer abundance. They Might Be Giants’ Flood comes to mind, or Elvis Costello’s Get Happy. Downside is, it takes some time and patience to digest the wealth of musical ideas they offer. But the upside is they often (eventually) become favorites of your collection.

The High Llamas’ third album Hawaii may not stand with the classics I mentioned, nor indeed with the works that seem to have inspired it, Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds and Smile LPs. But across its sprawling 29 tracks (and six more on a bonus disc) it does share with all those albums a wide artistic scope and a richness of sonic detail.

Some of the orchestral soundscapes songwriter Sean O’Hagan achieves are unlike anything you’ve previously heard on a pop record. But most often when this music does evoke something familiar, it’s nervous breakdown-era Brian Wilson. In fact, the lack of hit singles aside, listening to this record must be rather like the experience first-time listeners to those Beach Boy records had.

“Pilgrims” also evokes for me some of the gentler ballads in the Steely Dan catalogue.

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