Lawrence Arabia's "The Sparrow"

Lawrence Arabia's "The Sparrow"

  • Article by: Andrew Miller
  • Posted: 07/24/2012

On The Sparrow, the third release from Lawrence Arabia, the New Zealand-based indie-pop outfit comes into its own and moves away from the heavily retro, Beatles-influenced sound of their previous releases. The addition of Elroy Finn and Connan Mockasin to the group allows frontman and founder James Milne to test his limits as a songwriter and musician on The Sparrow, and the result is a haunting and accessibly beautiful collection of songs.

Some residual influence from the Fab Four remains, but gone are the swelling three-part harmonies borrowed from Abbey Road and the Lennon-esque double-tracked vocals that filled the mostly guitar-driven tracks of 2009’s critically-acclaimed Chant Darling; (perhaps it was all of that touring with Feist.) Taking their place are richly textured strings and horns that deftly show the maturation of Milne’s songwriting.

The Sparrow begins with the bright and lively “Travelling Shoes,” and then takes a turn toward darker lyrics and melodies for the remainder of the album. The nihilistic “Bicycle Riding” focuses on the pointlessness of anodyne leisure activities like a bike ride on a pleasant afternoon — “I’ve seen it all before,” sings Milne — and in the first lines of “Early Kneecapping,” Milne sings of kneecapping his friends in order to keep up with them while swimming. The horns in “Dessau Rag” sound a lot like a New Orleans funeral march.

Though it’s dark, it’s good, and halfway through the final song, “Legends,” a change in key ends the record with a peaceful reverie, giving both the album and the listener hopeful closure.

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