MySpace was rightly seen as a revolutionary concept for the music industry, accredited with helping kickstart the career of the Arctic Monkeys, Lily Allen and Los Campesinos. Those who truly had their ears to the ground however, who had their fingers not so much on the pulse as in it earmarked Sky Larkin as ones to watch. Separated by university commitments (in London, Glasgow and Leeds), the three members graduated last year and were able to fully focus on the band. Now, recently signed to Wichita and no longer constrained by the mother of all distractions in further education, they relocated to Seattle to record with John Goodmanson, producer of such luminaries as Blood Brothers and Death Cab For Cutie. Thus, ‘The Golden Spike’ was completed.
On first listen, two things strike you. 1) That Sky Larkin were either very, very lucky in landing John Goodmanson or very, very wise in choosing him. This album’s production is nigh on perfect. They’ve clearly learnt from the mistakes former tourmates Los Campesinos made with ‘Hold On Now, Youngster’ which was overproduced to the point of irritation. ‘HONY’ was the aural equivalent of a well done steak: everything was too crisp, too clean, too ‘perfect’. It had no blood, no soul, no bite. Sky Larkin have been acutely aware of this potential pitfall. There’s certainly elements of twee within their music, a love of melody and harmony in what they create that’s just too saccharine for some. That being said, ‘The Golden Spike’’s sound is scuzzy and worn enough to appeal to the indier-than-thou who first picked up on them yet still developed enough to showcase the immediate appeal of the songs themselves. It’s a blend that’s tricky to pull off, to entice both Radio 1 listeners and fans of say, Times New Viking.
2) Sky Larkin seem to still have complete faith in the concept of ‘the album’. There appears to have been a great deal of deliberation with regards to tracklisting, the flow of the album. It’s not a collection of songs, it’s a work. ‘Fossil, I’ is a very strong start to the record, its hypnotic intro grabbing you from the first second before leading into an instrumental middle, swirling keys and low bass creating a sense of disorientation. That singer Katie Harkins voice opens the album is indicative of its power, not quite a bellow but certainly unusual in both its delivery and sound – it helps separate them from the throng of groups making the unusual, wonky pop that seems to be in vogue now. The strong start is continued with ‘Pica’ and former single ‘Molten’, the speed with which the tracks come like blows to the head. ‘Antibodies’ refrain of ‘sentiment stretched over sediment and soil’ anthemic enough to soar through your head for hours after.
After this blistering start, things wind down in the middle until ‘Matador’ quickens the pace once more continuing to the end with ‘Keep Sakes’, a truly triumphant closer. To use a potentially shit analogy, the album flows like a bird in flight. The initial burst of energy and flight that then glides along gracefully until the potentially fatal landing. In this case, the landing is faultless. Sky Larkin have, in ‘The Golden Spike’, an album that stands up to repeated listening, that reveals more layers and intricacy each time and delivered more than many would have expected of them. Whilst it’s not the most original sound, it’s clear Sky Larkin write songs of this ilk because they love their music. No cynical ambitions at heart, just a desire to write the best songs they can. In the coming summer months, remember ‘The Golden Spike’. This may just be the sleeper, word of mouth album of the year.
The former Sky Larkin member is heading in a totally different direction with her new solo venture.