Strange Hearts is possibly Secret Cities’ ‘Pet Sounds’. It somehow evokes what has passed, like a realisation that you can never return, and it will leave you overwhelmed by peacefulness. Gather in your mind some nostalgic pre-teen TV themes. How about Jackie’s ‘White Horses’? Something where the melody is strung high, or is gently sung. This is the mood of ‘Strange Hearts’ – rainbow hued album, full of glistening notes, pattering down on us as the sun sets. The textures are wiry and unkempt; the vocals mumbled, as drums clatter percussively. This album grabs at your heart and pumps it hard.
Out of the traps they hit a volley of rose-petalled gems. ‘Always Friends’ and ‘Ice Cream Scene’, feature the miasmic vocals of Charlie, but later on we get the charming falsetto of MJ on ‘The Park’ and ‘Portland’. It all sounds innocent and faux-naif, until you realise that what you’re hearing is hitting the spot very precisely, which takes some dedication in the planning. So often in the past, Secret Cities have been lumped in with the whole pack of Sixties nostalgists, but such a label is wide of the mark. What they evoke is merely the feeling of times passed, not necessarily the style. Faded in detail, bleached out in colour, there is nothing to constrain them to a generic period in terms of detail. The odd oompah-skiffle of ‘Love Crime’ belongs elsewhere; it just wasn’t made for these times. Secret Cities represent the feeling of floating; of being assailed on all sides by the pressures of work, needs and others. Here, you can drift in a kind of limbo, on autopilot, through lost weekends.
Can there be a more wavering, tentative progression as on the track ‘Pebbles’, that is so sweetly humane? We should send this record into space, as an intergalactic greeting. Peace in the cosmos and all that. Secret Cities have succeeded in furthering ‘Pink Graffiti’, which is some task, pushing further out, and further inward than ever before.