Erlend Oye and co return with album two...

With the sun beginning to show its face over the past week or so, thoughts are turning to summer – lazy afternoon drinking, naked feet in paddling pools, barbecued everything and flip-flop blisters. All that’s missing in this vision of a near future certain to be spoiled by bastard rain clouds is an appropriate soundtrack.

‘Rules’ can step into the breach with ease. A funk-touched, percussively skittering affair, it treads a parallel path to Peter Bjorn & John’s ‘Writers Block’ during its more straight-of-face indie-cum-folksy moments, while sliding into a cool state of introspection a la Air meeting Yo La Tengo when the foot eases off the pedal. Erlend Øye’s the constant, the Norwegian singer’s frail tones lending the whole album its vulnerability; lyrically, too, he’s opening himself up and letting loose of emotional restraint, which can make for striking listening when you’re truly focused on what’s being said between the beats.

But take ‘Rules’ – The Whitest Boy Alive’s second long-player after 2006’s celebrated ‘Dreams’ – at face value, and even on a first impression it finds its place amongst your present favourites, even without delving too deep into Øye’s narratives. Such is the joy that flows through the instrumentation, the knowing but never in-your-face cool of the record, that setting in motion the tapping of a toe is a prerequisite to any play through. The way the guitar plays off the stuttering keys on ‘High On The Heels’, the manner in which ‘1517’ opens like it’s going to explode into a Daft Punk neon cacophony only to get all ‘Groovejet’ instead, the sweet shuffle of ‘Intentions’ – these arrangements are deceiving in their suggestion of simplicity, entirely natural of flow but surely crafted so very meticulously to deliver such semblances.

The key flourishes are never not engaging, and comprise something of an instrumental characteristic in an album not massive on uniqueness but completely savvy of perfect execution. As songs unfold, said sunshine licks immediately transport the listener to some oasis of wide blue skies and free, ice-cool beer. While Berlin, the band’s base of operations, is often seen as an environment guaranteed to produce steely, perhaps quite severe material, ‘Rules’ seems to represent its carefree underbelly, where the pursuit of pleasure is more important than the maintenance of an attitude or manifestation of individually contrary ethics.

Of course, listen close to Øye and soon the skies around The Whitest Boy Alive’s perfect little world begin to darken a little, but when accompanied by some of the most charming music to be released to date in 2009, it’s impossible not to crack a smile whatever the thematic forecast. Now you’ve the album, best dig the charcoal out of the shed – it’s time to begin waiting for that singularly perfect summer afternoon.


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