Tindersticks frontman Stuart Staples has a heady baritone that vibrates on a frequency not too far removed from an amplified guitar with superior sustain. On the band’s early albums, Staples’ voice was often the main attraction; while the other Tindersticks plucked idly, sawed softly, blew gently, and tapped lightly, Staples took center stage, moaning about people tortured by their own impulses. Then the band began to experiment with R&B, and Staples took on a different role, more akin to a human translator for the desires expressed by the slinky instrumentation. Now, on Falling Down A Mountain, Staples’ vocals pulse like a telegraph signal, often joined by blaring horns, faintly Latin guitar, and peppy piano. Falling Down A Mountain is as suffused with melancholy as any Tindersticks recording, but these songs don’t crouch quietly in a corner. The uptempo “Harmony Around My Table,” “Black Smoke,” and “No Place So Alone” stride forth confidently and even a little recklessly, while the winking cabaret numbers “Peanuts” and “She Rode Me Down” celebrate conventional romantic give-and-take. The album has a swagger that Tindersticks hasn’t shown since 2001’s Can Our Love…, finding common ground between the rockier Velvet Underground and the mellower Rolling Stones. Yet it all still hums at a pitch to match Staples’ croon, transmitting a message that comes through truest and clearest in a darkened room.
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