A bit bonkers, a bit brilliant...
'Not Real'

Next Wave favourites Stealing Sheep return with a surprising - and, at times, genius - second album.

Long gone are the folk leanings of 2012's 'Into The Diamond Sun'; here we find a three-headed beast immersed in all the best leftfield production of the '80s. It's a curveball, no doubt, but one that for the most part pays off on these ten brave (and occasionally bonkers) tracks.

From the opening celestial synth washes and bass picks of first number 'Sequence', it's clear that Stealing Sheep aren't playing it safe. A tight and expertly executed three-minutes of electro pop follows, utilising the girls' famed harmonies and quirky delivery. 'Apparition' follows suit, another finely crafted track (albeit one that sounds remarkably close to Metronomy).

The title track suffers similarly in its familiarity; an obvious choice for a single, perhaps, but one that does a disservice to the rest of the album's sense of adventure and confidence.

After these minor hiccups, however, 'Not Real' proves a truly fresh and rewarding listen; one filled with lovely guitar flourishes, confident bass work and inventive background instrumentation. 'This Time' takes shape as a punchy, wonky jingle with plenty of bite and first-rate vocals - an album highlight.

Follower 'Greed' is another standout, featuring dark lyrics, Asian percussion and fantastically eerie soundscapes to get lost in. It showcases the band's new found influences and mastery of the studio, doing so in a succinct three and a half minutes to boot.

Concluding with 'She', a suitably dreamy and hallucinogenic slice of summery pop, 'Not Real' proves a fun set – but  whilst you can't help but admire Stealing Sheep for evolving their sound, with a few track tweaks it could have been an evolution which went so much further.

7/10

Words: Sam Walker-Smart

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Related: Influences - Stealing Sheep

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