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I often hear of band members meeting at college, or through mutual friends, or at a bar. In the case of The Proper Ornaments, this couldn’t be further from the truth. James Hoare and Max Claps met when Hoare was working at a vintage clothing store, from which Claps’s kleptomaniac girlfriend was trying to steal a pair of boots.

The unlikely pair became friends, bonding over The Velvet Underground, and formed The Proper Ornaments in 2010. They released a self-titled EP in 2011, and their debut album, ‘Waiting for the Summer,’ last year. Now they return with ‘Wooden Head,’ a darker and more consistent follow-up that expands upon their 60’s experimental- influenced aesthetic.

Opening track “Gone” is a nostalgia-drenched, lo-fi track, while the following,  “Sun,” introduces the album’s darker side; despite its name, it’s slippery and haunting. The latter is my personal favorite on the album- it’s enthralling.

“I had a vision of the future but now it is gone” Hoare and Claps harmonize on the mysterious and brooding “Now I Unerstand,” and the subject of the unknown with the introspective “Don’t You Want To Known (What You’re Going To Be).” It’s not light stuff. And if that’s not dark enough for you, the next song, “Magazine,” is told through the perspective of a gun.

The album’s lead single, “Summer’s Gone,” is a hazy pop masterpiece. It’s gentle and warm but still, at the end, a sad goodbye. “Now that you’re old enough to lose your own mind/ Take your hands off and free me in your own time” might not be lyrics you’d expect on such a soft song, but somehow this makes it all the more saddening.

The album ends on a high note, with the delightfully shoegazey “You Shouldn’t Have Gone,” though the next and final track, “You’ll See,” felt a bit unnecessary. Ultimately, the first side of ‘Wooden Head’ is stronger than the second.

Listening to ‘Wooden Head’ is a refreshing experience. With the current music scene being dominated by garage and noise (I mean, I like some good old garage rock as much as anyone, but guys, there IS a limit) it’s hard to find a good, thoughtful record that’s rid of  the relentless punk idealism common in popular indie music. ‘Wooden Head’ is just that record; it is frank, starkly so at times. Hoare and Claps, who pen the songs together, have an honest and illusion-free perspective that shines through in the lyrics, helping to craft a beautiful record that is both contemplative and artful.

Julia’s rating: 8/10



Image courtesy of/ special thanks to Force Field PR



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