Listen to You, Darling You, the sophomore album’s opening number, and it’s clear that the London quintet Treetop Flyers (Ned Crowther now replacing Matthew Starritt on bass) are firmly influenced by the sounds of the west coast 60s, most especially CS&N (with and without Y), not just in the music but in the way downbeat themes are often enrobed in uplifting melodies. And, after two years that have seen the death of parents and marriages (that opening track) and other upheavals, the album isn’t short of sober reflection. The drums driven punchy 31 Years deals with the death of a friend during the recording of the debut album while the slow, stripped back close harmonies of the profoundly moving St. Andrew’s Cross stems from the death of singer Reid Morrison’s father.
Elsewhere lost dreams hang heavy over the 60s soul shaded Falling Back (which drinks from the same well as Bowie’s Sound and Vision) and a similarly toned Fairytales & Lullabies which, with its line about how “I’m down here and you are still up there” is another song about death and how the living have to somehow carry on. It’s that resolution that guides the album, the hope of light coming out of the darkness.
The vocally quivering It’s A Shame (a musical nod to Sam Cooke) may talk about someone walking out on a relationship and the widescreen, guitar jangling Sleepy Nights, where they sound like an uptempo America, may ask “did the velvet curtain fall on another empty hall?, but the latter counterbalances with positive lines (“takes these reins from me and let’s go wild”) and the lengthy, sultry funked Dance Through The Night, where Steely Dan jazz and Booker T’s heady psychedelic organ influences come into play alongside wah wah guitars, finds escape on the dance floor.
While the percussion rumbling and discordant piano crescendos of the moody Never Been As Hard offer another echo of Neil Young, they don’t always look quite so far back for inspiration, the slow swaying, rolling piano chords of the six minute Lady Luck, for example suggest a familiarity with Portishead’s trip hop, though there may also be a just hint of Procol Harum in the mix.
A cathartic affair, they close up on the upbeat, uptempo rocking falsetto note of Wild Winds with its soaring guitars and driving drums, a song that’s less an encouragement to break free than a cautionary warning not to ruin a good thing by giving in to reckless impulse. It’s been troubling times, but they’ve come through it bloodied but unbowed to make it as a band rather than just five individuals sharing a studio. The distinctive colouring of a palomino horse makes them stand out in the show ring. The same can be said of this album.