Change is in the air, and it is good

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American President Barack Obama once opined: "If you run, you stand a chance of losing, but if you don't run, you've already lost."

Or as pop-rocker Sheryl Crow puts it simply: "A change would do you good."

Such is the spirit of change in the air. Nothing is to be taken for granted - to maintain a healthy ecosystem, the good ol' ways of doing things should be continually probed and rigorously scrutinised.

Inertia is anathema to creativity, as these week's two acts, Sheffield duo Slow Club and New Hampshire folk-blues troubadour Ray LaMontagne, have also come to realise.

Slow Club began as an indie-folk duo, making their debut in 2009 with a beguiling Yeah So, but gradually shedding their pretty twee threads with Paradise in 2011.

The title of their third album, Complete Surrender, signals the coming- of-age of a band who aren't afraid of letting go. They have gone Motown soul, with a work ethic reminiscent of The Brill Building Sound, dishing out song after magnificent song.

Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson are now a classy Anglo answer to America's She & Him but minus those pesky, quirky tics of Zooey Deschanel. At the same time, they are charting a new direction, finding a fresh entry point to the soul-pop genre.

The blonde Taylor may look like the one-hit wonder Duffy as she flaunts her luxurious pipes but there's something transgressive about the way she rasps, holds a melody line, then releases.

Whether it's the girl-group pop majesty of Suffering You, Suffering Me or the fragile yet limber Everything Is New, you're surprised by how instinctive it all sounds.

On Wanderer Wandering, the nearly- eight-minute-long sleeper hit, Taylor and Watson harmonise like partners in crime.

Synths and brass rise and swell, accompanied by punch-drunk drums. Mid-song, the music ends for a few long seconds before it resumes with an organ. Taylor, miked upfront and centre, belts, then lets a line evaporate into thin air.

Similarly, LaMontagne has shaken off the shackles of blues-rock to emerge anew.

Where before he risked becoming a shorthand for morbid Americana, here he shatters the precepts with a foray into 1960s psychedelic pop.

The aptly titled Supernova feels like it's on a mission to outerspace, brimming with the enthusiasm of the post-World War II space exploration.

The bluesy rasp of LaMontagne now sounds sensual in the tactile architectonics created by producer, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys.

Pick Up A Gun features a mutant bassline worming itself through dank, silken F/X as he purrs in the minor key. Even better is the woozy, Mellotron- fuelled Airwaves, which features a salvo of sexy, guttural gasps from the bloke, when you least expect it.

This Ray is a light that shines a new path.

 
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