Now, the band returns, and they've corralled Philippe Zdar of Cassius to man the boards on their newest, In the Grace of Your Love. The result, for its few flaws and its exhilarations, at the very least, sounds fantastic, production-wise; Grace finds the band melding tooth-ground guitar assaults; '80s throwback candy pop; fluttery house templates; dusty, almost Stax-worthy soul getaways and sample-laced electro throbs into an album willing to sacrifice sonic exactitude for a mélange of sounds, tempos and genre exercises that still feels very much of a singular—albeit kaleidoscopic—piece. It's an album not of transitions or rebirth so much as of a softening around the edges, a confidence that's all the more difficult to believe given the turmoil of the last few years. But if that leads you to the impression that this is some kind of rocking-chair dance nostalgia for the elbow-patched cardigan assembly, it shouldn't. There's a lot to make the heart beat afresh here.
"Rollercoaster," with its off-kilt tempos and tumbling vocal lines, exudes the very uneasy ascent-descent in audio that Jenner's singing about—perhaps a moment more musically cagey on his part than actually appealing—while "Children" is the clear stadium-anthem, with its echo-box guitars and stormy rhythm. "Sail Away" seems like a more mature and restrained take on the anxiety rankled punk funk of their Out of the Races EP—God bless that space-brained Herbie Hancock/Miles Davis outro—and with its sparse handclap rhythms and strobey '80s synth lines, highlight "Miss You" allows plenty of space for Jenner to groan about the holes spreading within.
Though there are moments where this new sense of comfort in their own skins eludes them—the assaultive post-punk guitars of "Bluebird" are undermined by what may be the single most nauseating vocal line/chorus I've heard this year, and the vacant Talking Heads guitar and naked spaces of the title track never attach themselves to memory—it's a trio of curios for the band found elsewhere that really solidifies the record's place in your collection. The charms of lead single "How Deep Is Your Love?" have been with us for months: six-and-a-half minutes of strident classic piano house stomp and Springsteen sax, and certainly the moment when most of us who'd ever cared about this band perked up our ears anew. But it's especially hard not to hear Zdar's sampledelic production on two highlights, "Come Back to Me" and album closer "It Takes Time to Be a Man"; the former for its smoke-hazed accordion sample and what sounds like a clipped African choir and the latter for its blue-eyed soul snippet of rhythm guitar/piano. Neither sounds, really, like anything the band's produced to date. Now that we're growing used to their reemergence, that seems like plenty to hang our hats on for whatever the future may hold.