After the misfire that was their 2010 album, the overtly commercial (and maybe slightly desperate) Head First, Tales of Us sees the duo retreat to the sonic landscape they explored on Seventh Tree (with the odd echo of their debut Felt Mountain). The result is a collection of autumnal, haunted, string-drenched mood pieces that cross French chansons with what could be offcuts from the Wicker Man soundtrack; all sketched out in impressionistic, oblique lyrics.
It's a deceptive album. What sounds delicate, even fragile, on first listen, has hidden depths if you dive in. There are questions of gender identity at play on Annabel, Laurel appears to be a song about a red-headed prostitute, while the gorgeous, heartbreaking closer Clay is a story of love at the front during the war.
But really the whole album is first and foremost an atmosphere, a combination of quietly epic soundscapes with the reedy, windblown beauty of Alison Goldfapp's vocals. The criticism that it's all one-paced misses the point. It's an immersive record, full of bruised songs and deep currents.