Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
There remain remnants of the doe-eyed, tween singer/songwriter when Long’s “Let Me Sign” was cherry picked by Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattison to sing on that movie’s 2008 soundtrack. But since Long’s 2011 full length debut and this sophomore effort, the UK singer/songwriter has toughened his sound, better defined the deep, resonant older-than-his years vocals and crafted a solid set of thoughtful Americana rock. Early fans can find plenty of introspective lyrics to reflect on even if the music is more Neil Young/Tom Petty/Son Volt than the primitive, acoustic, bedroom created songs of his earliest years. A move to New York City, input from the urban rock oriented producer Ted Hutt (Gaslight Anthem) and recording in California effectively removes all his UK folkie impulses.
Unfortunately a slew of similarly loping mid-tempo tunes slows the album’s momentum, even if taken on their own merits the songs are well crafted slices of literate rock. There are teeth in these performances with arrangements shaped through overdubs as opposed to the band capturing a performance in the studio. More pop oriented material like “Not Tonight, Not Today” and the lovely ballad “In Your Way” sport jangly, hummable choruses similar to The Jayhawks. The swampy impulses that drive “Devil Moon” along with most other selections imbue gravitas to songs you wish would just be a little stronger overall.