Standards Vol. IV

KK 106LP KK 106LP

LP version. Includes download code. On their latest album, Standards Vol. IV, the National Jazz Trio Of Scotland continue their engagement with classic and outsider pop traditions, subtly building on their characteristic blend of beguiling melodies and spare arrangements. There is even, dare we say it, a hint of jazz. Oblique visions of jazz aside, the album's most striking development is its focus on a single lead vocalist in Kate Sudgen, who has an understated approach with a real emotional pull. This is the first in a proposed series of albums to feature one singer from the NJTOS, with Gerard Black and Aby Vulliamy to follow. In 2012, Wells won the inaugural Scottish Album Of The Year award for Everything's Getting Older (2011), a collaboration with Arab Strap's Aidan Moffat. In 2011 he released Lemondale, recorded with Japan-based musicians, including Jim O'Rourke and Saya of Tenniscoats. Four years later, he assembled a stellar cast of musicians including Annette Peacock and Yo La Tengo for Nursery Rhymes, an exploration of the darker side of children's songs. Wells's penchant for d├ętournement and bittersweet irony crops up throughout Standards Vol. IV. Take "Tinnitus Lullaby", where Sudgen softly sings over the melancholy twinkling of a music box like synth. "Anticipated Sentence" makes a wry reference to the Sinatra standard "I've Got The World On A String", a song Wells dislikes intensely. In Wells's song. Kohler's cheerful refrain of "What a world, what a life!" is twisted into something altogether darker, with the string around the protagonist's finger becoming a noose around their neck. "Move" is a vivid portrait of depression, where the protagonist spends all day in bed, listening to the sounds of helicopters buzzing overhead. Yet Wells animates the song with bossa nova guitar and clave rhythms, creating an effect that is, depending how you read it, ironic or uplifting. In addition to the ten Wells originals and a new version of the Aidan Moffat collaboration "Far From You", Standards Vol. IV features a cover of Richard Youngs's "Summer's Edge" from the latter's 2005 masterpiece Summer Wanderer. Wells has known Youngs since the 1990s, when they worked together with Future Pilot AKA. The National Jazz Trio's version taps into the uncanny pastoralism of the original, with Sudgen's clear reading of the melody set against Wells's glistening keyboard samples. Standards Vol. IV is an album characterized by its gorgeous blend of sophistication and vulnerability.