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sleeping states - There The Open Spaces
We were literally bowled over when we heard the debut 7" from Sleeping States a few months back (I still have the bruises to prove it), with only two tracks Londoner Markland Starkie (what a name eh?) managed to do what so many artists fail to accomplish over entire careers; a glorious sincerity. Recorded in a distinctly lo-fi manner bringing to mind Vincent Gallo and the 90s scene of troublesome Scot miscreants there was an emotional core to Starkie's work which was impossible to ignore, a quality missing from so much of the 'singer-songwriter' music doing the rounds at the moment. I was expecting a lot from this album and no sooner had i slipped it into my cd player and found Starkland's badly-recorded voice uttering the words 'When I'm getting ready, in spite of the rain, you sometimes ring me up and say, "another time".' I knew I was in for something very special indeed. This opening sets the scene perfectly for 'There the Open Spaces' an album that unlike almost all other singer-songwriter albums I've had to endure this year is balanced on the quality of Starkie's unique and distinctly beautiful voice. Where other artists seem all too happy to mask their vocals, Starkie's soulful wails are painfully stunning from the off, bringing to mind a young Morrissey or a less-comical Jens Lekman - but the more you travel on through the record the less important comparisons feel and the more Starkie makes a case for his own solid identity. By the time the record reaches its fourth track, the flawless 'The Sleeping States, Or Who has Been Rocking my Dreamboat?' his manifesto is quite clear; this is a not a simple album of simple songs, but a collection of intelligently crafted leftfield compositions as enjoyable as any melancholic pop that comes to mind. With a tendency to lavish his productions with unexpected synthesized elements or discordant tangled strings we end up with an album that feels far deeper than a cursory listen suggestS. One part straight-up arrangements and one-part exploratory and deeply inventive, Markland Starkie has done something that I've been waiting for someone to do for a long time, and the reason he's succeeded is because he has that inexplicable ability to almost instantly evoke nostalgia, yearning and immense joy. 'There the Open Spaces' is among the best singer-songwriter albums you'll hear this year, if not the best - and it doesn't even feel like a singer-songwriter album at all... Essential purchase.