Jonathan Bree: After the Curtains Close (Lil Chief/digital outlets)

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Jonathan Bree: After the Curtains Close (Lil Chief/digital outlets)

By this time it wouldn't be surprising if some had reached peak-Bree because he was in the Brunettes, has contributed to Princess Chelsea albums (and many others on the Lil' Chief label) and this, I think, is his fourth album under his own name.

Elsewhere has most often been approvingly comfortable with his solo work where his dark vocals don't quite reach the gravitas of someone like Lee Hazlewood or early Scott Walker (two reference points sometimes erroneously made) but -- especially when couched in the dreamy atmospherics of synth strings, glockenspiel, electric guitars and swooning back vocals (often from Princess Chelsea) – he has created a micro-genre for himself.

And when things seem a little soft he skirts around the twee/cute whirlpool.

There are of course darker eddies in his seemingly shallow waters and more depth than a cursory hearing would allow.

He may write discrete songs but – and this has sometimes been a failing – they rarely stand apart from each other. So a Bree album tends to be a mood, which is one of melancholy, and an ennui sometimes easing towards a doomed Romantic nihilism wrapped in blue velvet (as on the opener here Happy Daze)

From the darkly swooning strings of Happy Daze, this album is a love letter to the conflicting emotions – mostly internalised – when the relationship is over.

There is the yearning and desperate promises, memories of better times (Heavenly Vision) which maybe always had a fatal flaw, the realisation it's over (the catchy and witty Waiting on the Moment, "we used to be Kenny and Dolly, islands in the stream with no money"), flickers of optimism, cold anger eased into contempt (the bitter Children), the finality of it all (No Reminders) . . .

This time out Bree offers much more by way of distinctive songs so that as this melodrama plays out we are taken to distinctive rungs on the ladder down.

There's also more of a razor's edge in places (Until We're Done, No Reminders) alongside the typically languid and sonically lush songs (In the Sunshine) .

Bree has always been an acquired taste and one perhaps even easy to dismiss for his curiously refined and confined focus.

But here those European elements which have always been present are now more to the fore and that – along with handing some vocals to Princess Chelsea, Britta Phillips (of Luna, Dean and Britta) and jazz pianist Crystal Choi -- gives this album an internal life and dynamic, and more emotional reach than some of its predecessors.

There's a French arthouse movie in here with Jonathan Bree loosening his bowtie, throwing his jacket over his shoulder and lighting a cigarette in the doorway for the title track at the end (“she's still out there . . . somewhere”) as the screen fades to black and the credits roll.

So, depending on how much you like French arthouse movies . . .

.

You can hear and buy this album from bandcamp here


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