Personnel: Beth Arzy, Anne Mari Barker-Davies (vocals); Ian Catt (keyboards, programming).
Recording information: 02/24/2014-08/06/2014.
True lovers of indie pop, that of the saddest, most heartbreaking variety, know that a Bobby Wratten project is guaranteed to deliver all the tears and melancholic feels one poor soul can handle. The Field Mice, Northern Picture Library, Trembling Blue Stars...records by these groups rate among the finest sad pop ever made. After taking a break from breaking hearts for a few years, Wratten returned with Lightning in a Twilight Hour and it's plain at once from seeing the band's name that there isn't going to be a lot of laughs involved. After a typically lovely EP, Slow Changes, was released in early 2015, Wratten and a very familiar crew (longtime engineer Ian Catt, former bandmates Michael Hiscock, Anne Mari Barker-Davies, and Beth Arzy) returned quickly with a full album, Fragments of a Former Moon, that only adds more luster to Wratten's CV. Filled with the kind of desperately sad songs that almost revel in their bleakness yet offer the listener solace through the painfully tender melodies and words, the album is a reliably glorious bummer. After starting off almost sprightly with a couple songs that have some forward motion and have Wratten's moping vocals offset by the light-as-air singing of Beth Arzy (who takes the lead on track two, the spy movie-influenced and almost cheerful "The Pattern Room" and "Night Traveller" later on), the record takes a turn for the gloomy with a string of slow, sad, love-lost songs and a trio of ambient instrumentals ("Fever Dreams of Emilia," "Taking the Figure Out of the Landscape," and "Starfields") that provide a perfect soundtrack for a day spent in bed with the covers pulled over your head. As with all his projects, Wratten's brand of melancholy on Fragments of a Former Moon is warmly inviting, comforting, and intimate, like a kind word from an old friend or a smile from a stranger. It's too soon to tell if Lightning in a Twilight Hour will be the equal of Wratten's other bands, but judging from the two releases so far, it seems pretty likely. ~ Tim Sendra