- It's hard to tell whether Too Many Voices, the title of Andy Stott's new album, is meant sincerely or as a quiet joke. On one hand, the low-lit ballad that takes the name is indeed stuffed with voices: it's led by a janky Fairlight choir, whose canned "ooh"s and "aah"s suggest Hounds Of Love-era Kate Bush. On the other, there's only ever really been one voice in Stott's world: that of Alison Skidmore, who wandered into the ruined techno landscapes on 2012's excellent Luxury Problems. She's since accompanied him out of the wreckage, helping transform his work from a busted kind of dance music into something more melodic and with broader appeal. Stott's latest marks a new stage on this journey into the pop unknown, but it feels like he's not quite there yet.
The album's best moments sound like a depressive's take on quiet storm, smouldering embers of romance found among the decayed industry of the North. With its cowbell-led groove, glistening FM synths and a breathy monologue from Skidmore, "New Romantic" could be new jack swing after a day's hard labour, dog-tired and grease-smeared. "Butterflies" reduces R&B's limber sway to an exhausted slouch, and "Forgotten"'s chords and drums totter unsteadily. On all three tracks, Stott's pop sense is more finely honed than ever.
He stumbles with "Selfish," a lacerating grime hybrid that jars against the album's lovelorn mood. Granted, 2014's Faith In Strangers had a similar track"—"Damage"—in almost exactly the same spot, but up until now it seemed like Stott had moved on from that album's grab-bag approach to style. The following tracks, "On My Mind" and "Over," return to the techno trudge of Stott's 2011 breakthrough EPs, but without the grit and wheeze that made them so intense. All of which makes the closing title track a welcome return to a fresher and more inviting style. It's the best pop song Stott has written, and a tantalising blueprint for what his music might sound like as his star continues to rise. Stott has articulated all sorts of musical voices over the years, but it's this one that ought to be heard more.
01. Waiting For You
03. New Romantic
04. First Night
07. On My Mind
09. Too Many Voices