Caro – ‘Burrows’ review: mischievous and meticulous art-pop on Leeds trio’s debut

Gallows humour and confessional tales make for a totally unique debut from Leeds trio

It is immediately obvious on this debut album from Leeds trio Caro that principle songwriter Adam Pardey is not afraid to dredge through the mud and weeds of his inner monologue to find jewels of wisdom.

“You never could quite bite the bullet/You just sink into your bed with a belly full of lead,” goes the recurring mantra at the end of opening track ‘Closet Lunatic’, Pardey burrowing into private moments of self-loathing and social alienation, themes that inhabit the majority of the record. The slinky, bass-heavy groove of the track is incongruous from the subject matter, and to some extent that would seem to be the point: Pardey seeks not to make light of his struggles, but to forge a coping mechanism out of sound that could help himself and others to cope.

Pardey’s vocals slip in and out of falsetto as easily as those of Everything Everything’s Jonathan Higgs on ‘Fall Apart’ and ‘Cat’s Pyjamas’, the latter of which begins with an assertion that life is “a bit of a faff, I think I want my money back”, a line that opens the door to a litany of suicidal aspirations to follow. Comfortably the poppiest chorus on the album, Pardey sings, “I can’t stop thinking about how I want to die, it’s hard to not fantasise,” while the track takes us on a jaunty, grinning skip through the graveyards of Pardey’s dreams. It’s a deadpan expression of darkness that calls to mind the gallows humour of BC Camplight and John Grant.

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The band operate in the same art-pop playground as bands like alt-J and Field Music, with guitars popping and chiming over Andrew Thompson and Bryn Jenkins’ rhythms, only taking a moment to change the pace for tracks like ‘Out to Get You’, with its prettily plucked pastoral guitar strings and close, breathy vocals, and ‘Smorgasbord’, which makes sparing use of anguished, weeping piano notes. There are fleeting moments of studio tampering (there is a percussion sound on the title track that sounds suspiciously like a ping pong ball, too), but primarily Caro choose relative formality over sonic experimentation.

The power of ‘Burrows’ undoubtedly comes from its message. Closing track ‘Figure Me Out’ is Caro at their most touching, with Pardey’s plea of “don’t figure me out” striking a heartbreakingly genuine tone. It ends with a heavy sigh, an exhalation that not only captures the discomfort and anxiety of the Pardey that this album presents, but also provides a glimmer of calm, perhaps the sound of a quiet sense of achievement. It would be justified, if so.

Details

  • Release date: December 4
  • Record label: YALA! Records
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