Charlie Barnes: More Stately Mansions

Rich progressive pop on Leeds group’s second LP.

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It’s no mean feat for a songwriter as talented as Charlie Barnes to make sense of all the many directions his tastes takes him in.

But on More Stately Mansions he and his band have achieved just that. The two brilliant opening songs – the title track and single Sing To God – both illuminate his musical heritage. Here is emotive balladry in the vein of Jeff Buckley or Bends-era Radiohead, with the post-progressive sonics of Oceansize and stadium-filling alt rock pomp of Biffy Clyro and Muse. There’s just one song – bonus track 18th – from the period when Barnes’ now-eponymous band played out as County Champion, but Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth takes the spirit of those days and infuses it with the immediacy of mid-career Biffy Clyro, and the results are fantastic. Of the tracks to have survived from Barnes’ solo days, the strongest is Dresden. Inspired by a walking tour of the city he received while touring Germany (as well as his predilection for Kurt Vonnegut novels, no doubt), it has transitioned from acoustic ballad to prog/post-rock epic with surprising ease. More Stately Mansions may be at the pop end of progressive music, but it’s a release of staggering depth, poise and grace.