Enough with the 2015 hangover — the new year means new music! And January brings a doozy with a tremendous album by Tindersticks, a British group revered for over two decades.
It’s telling they would sneak out their new record in the new year, the easier to be overlooked come end-of-year list season, since Tindersticks’ low media profile befits their unique sound, a restrained, intimate music reverberating with deceptively powerful currents of turmoil and heartbreak. The Waiting Room weaves familiar influences from their previous ten albums — the Velvet Underground’s more austere ballads, the unvarnished vocal presence in French chanson, the seductive soul of Stax Records. Tindersticks’ music doesn’t really need to evolve, it seems, so focused is this group on the delicate crafting of sounds and stories out the slightest of musical and vocal gestures… out of silence, really.
The group has contributed music to a number of films in the past, and with The Waiting Room they appear to be calling in their favors, having commissioned ten international directors to create short films for each album track. The first two films accompany the album’s most distinctive tracks. “We Are Dreamers!” (directed by Gabraz Sanna and Sara Nao Tem Nome) features Jehnny Beth from the band Savages. A somber ballad punctuated by rolling drums, this is Tindersticks at their most turbulent, caught in a moment of painful epiphany.
In sharp contrast, “Hey Lucinda” (directed by Rosie Pedlow and Joe King) presents one of the album’s most fetching melodies. Frontman Stuart Staples is joined by Mexican vocalist Lhasa de Sela, beckoning his muse out to a night on the town; their playful exchange is made bittersweet by the fact that de Sela would succumb to cancer soon after this recording. Horns, strings, and steel drums join the band in what should be a maximalist recording, but the band’s touch is so skilled, the song glances the listener as gently as a fading memory.
The Waiting Room comes out January 22 on City Slang Records.
An advance screening of The Waiting Room Film Project (with Stuart Staples Q&A) will be held at Rough Trade Brooklyn on January 19.