Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Album review: Lawrence Arabia, Absolute Truth

James Milne aka Lawrence Arabia has released his latest album, Absolute Truth, which is equally as good as his previous albums. Photo / Hayden East
James Milne aka Lawrence Arabia has released his latest album, Absolute Truth, which is equally as good as his previous albums. Photo / Hayden East

James Milne's fourth solo album is a grower, in the best sense possible.

It's something of a character trait with his songs - there are hooks and grooves aplenty, but they're couched in such a way as to make sure you never get sick of hearing them.

And that means they may not embed themselves in your brain on the first listen but when you're still listening to Absolute Truth three years from now (as you will be), you'll be very grateful.

Lawrence Arabia albums come with high expectations - it was universally agreed that Chant Darling was brilliant and The Sparrow was stunning - so you'll be happy to hear Absolute Truth is equally excellent.

There's a certain vulnerability to the songs that makes them feel more personal, and perhaps even more mature than before, but that overall inkling of tongue in cheek that Milne does so well remains, without the songs ever becoming an ironic pastiche.

There's also a newfound openness and joy as he trips through these semi-autobiographical vignettes, telling tales of nights out, arguments, hangovers, beautiful summers, the abandonment of idealism, and love.

He mixes the sense of acceptance with a desire to fight it, encapsulating the tyranny of middle age throughout.

Sonically, it's also more open than The Sparrow, expanding on the palette of layered vocal harmonies, rich strings and brass flourishes with plenty of unusual synth and guitar sounds, and exotic percussion peppered through the 60s and 70s pop influences.

If that sounds a bit dense, have no fear, there's also a lovely sense of space in the songs, and stylistic variety.

Opening track The Lake has a southern sort of vibe, I Waste My Time has a delightful creepy elegance, O Heathcote with its lush strings and louche swing reminds most of The Sparrow, the title track is a laid-back disco number like no other, and the grand percussive propulsion of Mask of Maturity hints at a little Liam Finn influence.

It's all distinctively Lawrence Arabia though.

He manages to make "sleeping on the rear deck by the recycling" sound nostalgic and comedic, and throughout the album mixes romance and realism in such a clear-eyed manner that you can't help but be won over.

Review: Lawrence Arabia, Absolute Truth

(Flying Nun)

Verdict: Wonderful

- TimeOut

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