Hopetoun Brown: Don't Let Them Lock You Up (Rhythmethod)

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Two Boots
Hopetoun Brown: Don't Let Them Lock You Up (Rhythmethod)

The first two albums by the duo of Nick Atkinson and Tim Stewart – Burning Fuse and Look So Good – were enjoyable outings, especially the latter where they broadened their palette beyond their horns with guests like trumpeter Finn Scholes, and singers Tami Neilson and Marlon Williams.

But on this third outing they really stretch into new areas with synth beats, backing vocalists, Callum Passells on alto, singer Steve Abel, bassist/drummer Jol Mullholland and Scholes again.

They've still got the funk and weaving horn lines down cold when playing together, and there is an air-tight pop-rock economy throughout (check Atkinson's snapping Two Boots).

But for two tracks – the throbbing electronica of Sticks and Stones, and the stately and nostalgic Full of Hope where the layers of horns allude to brass bands of old in line with the reflective lyrics – it is just Stewart alone handling vocals, horns and percussion.

You sense Stewart and Atkinson have reached that Lennon-McCartney point where each is now bringing discrete ideas to the band and consequently the work is more diverse, and the album the stronger and better for it.

Atkinson's You Know I Know is a vigorous hip-hop influenced carnival piece with vocalist Sophie Burbery offering sass and has Atkinson as cheerleader bringing in bongo and alto from Isaac Chatterton and Passells respectively. It's a swag of manic Spice Girls-pop fun and has some of the energy of the HBrown's early band Supergroove.

As much as they understand the warp and weft of horn lines, they also now do much the same with vocal parts.

There's a lot going down on this confident third album, not the least that they now also embrace as much serious comment (the title track, Put It Down, Full of Hope) as providing the pleasure principle.

If they have somehow gone past you, this is the mature album with which to start your listening . . . and admiration.

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