Evoking a sound reminiscent of the past is a style that many artists have attempted, and subsequently failed. For while it’s easy to try to replicate, for example, the ’80s through echoing drums, reverbed vocals, and synths, in essence the replication is only a heavily romanticized and nostalgic trip down an imagined memory lane.
British duo Ultimate Painting have avoided this trap on their latest album, Green Lanes. Despite heavy references to the ’60s and ’70s, the album embodies a timeless sound by avoiding the rigid boundaries of what is deemed era-defining musical characteristics; instead it creates something that is effortlessly undefinable. The hazy guitar progressions, rich melodies, and relaxed atmospherics evoke a late-summer, beach-side, lazy aesthetic. It’s music for the moment that still manages to sound like something that has been around for decades.
Opener “Kodiak” is somewhat reminiscent of the Velvet Underground, and third track “(I’ve Got the) Sanctioned Blues” hints at some Beatles influences. “Break the Chain” is a fantastic exploration in subdued drive-rock that could have easily made it onto the soundtrack for the 2014 film Boyhood, and “I Was Lost” has a supreme air of tranquility surrounding it.
“Paying the Price”—a slow song which includes the more-than-appropriate line, “There’s only so much you can take”—is one of the few tracks that seems out of place. Luckily, it is immediately followed by “Woken By Noises,” a striking departure from the album’s lazy state, providing a rather gritty and upbeat tune that channels both fellow British rocker Jamie T and the 1961 hit “Let’s Twist Again.”
It’s not all about the sound, though, as the album’s themes and lyrics more than rise to the occasion. Standout track “Sweet Chris” is a heartbreaking love-letter to a former partner: “I never see you anymore / I miss the little things you say and do / In my mind it’s alright / You’re still there in my heart.” It’s tragic, but undeniably beautiful.
Green Lanes is a methodical, cohesive piece of work that encompasses the ‘here-and-now’ attitude perfectly, never breaking pace once. While it could be seen as a purposely vintage-sounding record, the duo never sounds like they are trying to recreate anything. The beachy, sun-drenched production and personal lyrics make it anything but a rehash of a reimagined era.