Album Review: King Creosote – Astronaut Meets Appleman

There is always a danger when you fall in love with an artist, band or record that, at some point in the not too distant future, you will be let down. There will be a slip-up that causes untold disappointment. This is made worse because you know they can do so much better. Just look at what they have done in the past…

The collaboration between King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, 2011’s Diamond Mine, could have been just one such high spot. At not long over 30 minutes, it was a perfect concoction of pop melancholy that was rightly recognised by a Mercury Prize shortlisting. But thank goodness King Creosote was not intimidated by the past acclaim, but has continued to climb still higher.

His latest release, Astronaut meets Appleman, is quite simply a great record.

For those that don’t know, King Creosote is Kenny Anderson, a singer songwriter from Fife, Scotland. For me, King Creosote is at his best when evoking a wild and desolate Scotland. Maybe it was all my family holidays in a camper van travelling the country as a kid, but you can almost smell the heather on the album.

But it is not the Scotland of bagpipes or cèilidhs but more of the melancholy and sometimes darkness of Tartan Noir. There is patriotism and pride in the Scottish spirit that comes through but without being jingoistic.

Yes there is a bit of bagpiping on Melin Wynt and other tracks, but that just shows he isn’t afraid to use a whole range of instruments. There are also harps and strings, amid the changing paces and moods of the album. I can’t think of too many other artists who could work the gurgles of their baby daughter in as the main vocal on a track, as King Creosote does in Peter Rabbit Tea.

It is a very emotional record, it swoops and soars, often drifting skywards and then bringing you back down to earth with a serious bump. His lyrics spend time pouring over personal relationships, but there is also plenty of time to consider living in the modern world. Bringing together his ‘magnetic north’ with a ‘bipolar crush’ is a notable highlight.

It is certainly not all doom and gloom, there is plenty to get the pulse racing as well with tracks that have a more collective feel to them, such as Betelgeuse. You can almost feel people getting up and starting to work together. The persistent repetition included in other tracks drives the whole enterprise forward.

This is an album that has been carefully crafted. You can tell that is has been worked on, not just thrown together. That takes time, effort and dedication and no little amount of pure musical talent. Well he is a King, after all.

If this has whetted your appetite then King Creosote is on the road throughout the UK in January, all his upcoming gigs are here.

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