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St Thomas | Mysterious Walks (Racing Junior)
The Norwegian invasion continues apace with the belated UK debut release from twenty-something Thomas Hansen (there's a new album due this August), though questions of geography can (and should) become redundant when the music sounds like it comes from some mythic Californian shore. The first track has the ramshackle percussive propulsion of early Palace - St. Thomas' voice a high, yelping, almost unaccented, pleasure. The title track follows with its double-tracked vocals, churchly organ and primitive drum machine. And then, just when you thought you'd nailed him as a Will Oldham imitator, comes Failure #2, a gorgeous, banjo driven track that sounds like one of those baroque pieces from the first Neil Young album. The sound is all lo-fi guitars, banjos and swathes of organ and harmonium to buoy up the textures while the songs deal in heartbreak, desolation, fame and everything else that good songs should be about. Sometimes it all too easily recalls the whimsy of Oldham; the track Invitation with its chorus of "Well you're invited now to the St. Thomas world" for example, or early Sebadoh, the creepy paranoia piece What Have I Done. Surfer's Morning is pure Southern Californian psychedelia. Hard to believe it was recorded in such a cold country, it sounds like it came straight out of Brian Wilson's sandpit. Lullaby From a Wannabe Popstar is a welcome burst of self deprecation (or is it?) with its chorus of "This music that I make needs to be heard / Because it's the only thing I do." Things wind down with the instrumental My Early Funeral which sounds like Tom Waits scoring The Godfather, all organ and rhythm, leading to the splendid hidden track, an affecting love song which has young Thomas singing "Cowgirl, cowgirl" as if trying to conjure up the ghost of Neil Young. A wheezing, sputtering delight of an album.