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Album review: Tindersticks' 'Falling Down a Mountain'

February 15, 2010 |  5:03 pm

Tindersticks_falling_240 "I'm sad in the morning, I'm sad in the evening," sings cult-fave Canadian vocalist Mary Margaret O'Hara on the new album from Tindersticks. Well, she certainly picked the right band to make a guest appearance with: For over a decade and a half, this English outfit has been making extravagantly depressive records defined by lush, lounge-soul arrangements and frontman Stuart Staples' mushmouthed confessions.

Tindersticks took an extended break following 2003's "Waiting for the Moon" but reconvened (minus founding multi-instrumentalist Dickon Hinchliffe) in 2008 for "The Hungry Saw." To say Hinchliffe wasn't missed is only to point out the remarkable consistency of the band's carefully cultivated sound.

"Falling Down a Mountain," its second reunion effort, doesn't stray from the Tindersticks formula: In the opening title track, Staples works his mournful last-call croon over a slow-rolling bass-drum-trumpet groove, while "Factory Girls" features the pitiful plink of what might be the world's loneliest piano.

If the style is intact, though, the songs here seem a bit lackluster; only the relatively jangly "Harmony Around My Table" and the Velvet Underground-ish "Peanuts" (think of O'Hara in Moe Tucker's role) really stand out from the tasteful mid-tempo blur.

In addition to the band's studio albums, Tindersticks has composed soundtrack music for a series of movies by the French filmmaker Claire Denis. "Falling Down a Mountain" feels like an outgrowth of that work. 

-- Mikael Wood 

"Falling Down a Mountain"
Two stars (Out of four)