California Snow Story "Some Other Places" (Shelflife Records)
Before the trashy garage punk records, before all the Northern Soul compilations, way before the dalliances with techno and electronic music, before everything else there were the gentle guitar pop records. For years they were all I wanted and needed. Listening to California Snow Story's new lp(Shelflife download for now, other formats to follow), I'm made acutely aware that I still need them. That "Some Other Places" exists came as a pleasant surprise as their cherished earlier releases date from so long ago that I'd assumed the group to be defunct. It's such a joy to luxuriate in Sandra Belda Martãnez's beautiful voice again. For Not Unloved, she's up there with Katrina Mitchell and David Skirving's former bandmate, Traceyanne Campbell. As if that weren't treats enough, Lupe Núñez-Fernández of Pipas/Amor de Dias and Mel Whittle from the also missing-in-action-for-years The Hermit Crabs make telling vocal contributions that complement David's own tender, understated voice. The feel of this record is so right: soft but never sickly sweet. The guitars are immaculately recorded with each note having a life of its own. In a just world, "The Solitary Age" would be the single that sold the album. It's as fine a pop tune as I've heard this year: a winner from its first brittle beat and downbeat jangle. This sounds like music made by thoroughly agreeable human beings; the kind of people who don't swagger or push themselves forward but who quietly get on with crafting beautiful music with pride. There is a one hundred per cent chance that, come year end, "Some Other Places" will be numbered among my very favourite records of 2016.