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Aug 31, 2015

Ultimate Painting



Green Lanes

(Trouble In Mind Records)

Rather than galloping into 2015 with a sophomore record, the U.K. duo Jack Cooper and James Hoare prefer to shuffle into the conversation, slightly jaded in a very uncomplicated way. Don’t mistake that for shyness or laziness though; they are dedicated craftsmen, but verbosity and fanfare is just not their style. Similar to their debut self-titled record, Green Lanes finds its groove in succinct imagery. It’s the essence of their moniker, taken from the Drop City-generated, geodesic framework that is The Ultimate Painting. It’s a piece of artwork designed with layers of depth beyond the brightly colored kaleidoscope on it’s surface, revealed in patterns under different frequencies of light. Unlike the terrifically detailed painting, the band is unsaturated by eye-grabbing features, yet opts for the same layered efficiency that would make Buckminster Fuller and other classic drop artists proud. Ultimate Painting is a project of simplicity: simple lyrics, simple themes, and simple moods. Their sparse instrumentation speaks volumes in it’s low-key, sometimes pessimistic tone. Rather than narrating a life lesson to listeners, the U.K. boys paint a landscape with their words and often draw on the power of nature to do the talking for them. Even their actual melodies hint at salt-of-the-earth, one-with-nature, peace-loving style of music made popular in rock by the Beatles (who the band cites as a major influence). Categorized by an inundation of 60s classic rock and a dram of Mac Demarco style slacker-rock, the duo gently skirt Velvet Underground psychedelia but never quite commit to it. Instead, they prefer a down tempo haze of straightforward licks, the gentle ease of their music describing what hidden psychedelia lies within rather than overtly narrating it. In a way I can only describe as Bare-Foot Overalls,” tracks like “(I’ve Got The) Sanctioned Blues” condense out of the sticky, warm baritone shared by both Cooper and Hoare as a jangly trip down a sun-dappled path. There’s probably fields of sunflowers involved, but I’ll let your imagination take over. In a modest 3 minutes of audio, the track reads like a bluegrass anthem, sounds like an whimsical skip through upbeats-ville, and is actually about sneaking onto a train and then assaulting the conductor before being kicked off. It’s this kind of frank yet earnestly human song that identifies Ultimate Painting as worth a moment of your time.

In exchange for the jangle, the following track “The Ocean” arrives back at a more somber recollection of nature and innocence, comparing emotions to being under the crushing depth. The song finds strong conviction in its repetitious hook, driving images of innocence into listeners speakers. “Take a deep breath/into the ocean/endless all day/praying it’s emotion” a captures a candid look at the terrifying endlessness of water, yet underline it’s equal beauty. It’s a simile to growing up, breathtakingly melancholy yet equally free-spirited and joyous in just a few words. Ultimate Painting says something with nothing. Like staring into a void and finding meaning, so too have the London natives found vast meaning in the mysteries of nature. Green Lanes is a breezy romp of a summer album, perfect for the end of the season when we begin to draw into ourselves in introspection. It’s accessibility is thought provoking in a way the will surely stand up to the test of time.

Zach Simon