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Solace (Sony)

It is, actually, this record - solace.

Soothing but not somnolent, comforting but not blanketing, eyes up but not spinning, momentum rolling but controlled. When the shitshow that is national and international politics, or the likelihood that the climate is most of the way to hell already, starts to eat away at your enjoyment of life, this third album from the band once just known as Rufus could be the antidote. Or at least the reassuring distraction.

As it says it Underwater: “I just need a space … save me now, before I give up.”

Solace is the kind of record that doesn’t sit still, that disturbs the arrangement of your limbs in some way on most tracks, and yet drummer James Hunt never has you feeling you’ve gone at anyone’s pace but your own, Tyrone Lindqvist’s voice makes enquiries rather than demands, and Jon George’s keyboard sounds are conducive not abrasive.

Its surges – principally the second halves of Eyes, New Sky and All I’ve Got - are more swells than waves, lifting you rather than dunking you. Its genuinely pushy moments - Underwater (with its semi-industrial synth sounds), Lost In My Mind (picture a tempered Presets) and No Place (which recalls London Beat’s I’ve Been Thinking About You in its rhythm) - still offer more a glide into shore than any tumbling.

Without making some singer-in-a-garret record of ballads and ambience, George, Lindqvist and Hunt offer a safe space for dancers, romancers or just chancers. Even for people for whom electronica, pop or dance music aren’t favoured, there are no obvious reasons to dislike Solace.

Is this general favourability a good thing? Ah, that’s trickier.

It is reasonable to argue at times that a smooth journey can make for an uneventful and not particularly memorable one. It is not unfair often to claim that pleasant is the enemy of good. And that Solace doesn’t have the same kick in places as 2016’s Bloom is not really a point anyone would argue against.

(Incidentally, I don’t know why exactly but I’m not a fan of the new – to Australia – longer band name. Business sense made it practical for Rufus to have one name around the world: back in 2014 they explained this legally-driven US name as based on the fact “trademark is a serious bitch”, with multi-name confusion no less a bitch. And in the end it matters little, we’ll get used to it, and will call them Rufus anyway. But still ...)

Yet, I reckon the quantum of this solace is positive. I’d have celebrated more assertiveness, for sure, but there’s warmth and light throughout this record. There are moments of easy to hold on joy too. And there’s a facility for singing-with-everyone-else melodic offerings that, right up to the closing Another Life – where “I guess it’s time to say goodnight/I’ll see you in another life” feels more like a shared future hope than a disappointing end to a current one – does make you feel good.

Feeling good? Drawing solace from the comfort of strangers? There are worse things.

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