By Sky Larkin
After a brief hiatus participating in other projects and a revision and expansion of the lineup from a trio to a four piece, Sky Larkin are back and as enthused and energised as ever with Motto. Unlike their fellow Wichita Records labelmates Los Campesinos!, who slowly but surely traded all their initial youthful exuberance for wholesale embracing of their always hinted at cynicism, Sky Larkin have not lost any of their joy or fun. Their female-driven brand of power-pop indie rock is as strong as ever. While some will consider this, their third album, to not show any real progress from their debut in this regard, to them I say, "So what?" They have instead developed within the same framework, expanding the sound down a more directly rock route than their indier early days. And with seemingly everyone else going for maturity and seriousness (the aforementioned Los Campesinos!, Arctic Monkeys, and so on. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you.), you need someone to get you pumped and be there simply to be enjoyed. Sky Larkin accomplish that very, very well.
The opening title track 'Motto' sets the tone for most of the rest of the album, a more rocked up sound predominating. 'Motto' itself sounds almost like a Cult song, very much of the same sound as 'She Sells Sanctuary' in musical tone, albeit with Ian Astbury's more manly wail replaced with Katie Harkin's perenially young or ageless voice. Her voice pervades the music with a charm that a more "mature" voice would have perhaps neutered. The music is youthful and energetic, the vocals cementing that tone.
The guitar playing is also as brilliantly dynamic as always. The addition of a second guitarist to the lineup isn't exactly obvious on a casual listen, since Katie had always managed to make it sound like there were at least two guitars when it was really just her on her lonesome anyway. However, occasionally they take full advantage of the potential for extra oomph as on 'The Loyal Beat' and some clever contrapuntal melodies on 'Carve It Out'.
Sky Larkin strike their usual brilliant balancing act of being just on the right side of pop, coming on strong with their unique charm. While not a massive step forward or into any particularly new territory, it's not a step backward either. It's a true strengthening of the position they have carved out for themselves in the somewhat over-saturated indie rock market. That Sky Larkin have carved out so distinctive a niche for themselves is testament to their songcraft and unique voice. Motto is a great introduction to that sound.