Despite breaking through a decade ago alongside fellow Thamesbeat trailblazers Jamie T and Larrikin Love, Mystery Jets have actually been a band for 20 years. It all started when a pre-teen Blaine Harrison – now aged 30 – started making a racket with his dad Henry in Twickenham’s foremost enclave of odd, Eel Pie Island. Since releasing 2006’s screwball guitar-pop debut ‘Making Dens’ they’ve been a leftfield force in British indie – funnelling the weirdness of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and the pop sensibility of the Kinks into their always distinct sound.
In the three years since their Americana-infused, Texas-recorded fourth album ‘Radlands’, bassist Jack Flanagan has replaced Kai Fish and Blaine has been on a solo seaside writing retreat. ‘Curve Of The Earth’ is a boldly British record, taking on the galactic ‘70s prog of ELO and King Crimson, but retaining an accessible edge. It marks a definite move back home after ‘Radlands’. Instead of cowboy country, there’s ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ psychedelia running across the twinkling ‘Midnight’s Mirror’. Bohemian blues that’s part Withnail, part Rick Wakeman, blusters through ‘1985’, a mystical piano-led song about the return of Saturn (an astrological concept that links the planet’s rotations with human emotions) that explodes into a rollercoaster riff.
Immaculate pop choruses are scattered throughout, like glossy apples in the boughs of a flourishing tree. With a softly droning organ and delicate strings, there’s something of the medieval to ‘Taken By The Tide’, and as its towering apex detonates, Blaine calls “Brother, I thought you would be there ‘til the end”. ‘Bombay Blue’ pulls the same trick, softly shuffling into a rugged take on Tame Impala’s cosmic psychedelia.
The album may seem short at only nine tracks, but there are enough ideas crammed into ‘Curve Of The Earth’ to call it one of the most well rounded records of 2016. And yes, we know it’s only January.