This is the fourth album of their literate, art-school pop but very different to what preceded it. Robert ‘Hacker’ Jessett writes songs in so many formats that it’s difficult to define the Morton Valence sound; this album has a more country/ soundtrack tone (as its title suggests) but a number of songs, particularly the shorter pieces, give the feel of an audition tape where the songwriter is showing off his versatility.
But even if diverse, the songs are of high quality. Anne Gilpin launches into a traditional wronged woman country theme as she addresses her man in prison in ‘A Tear For Every Year’ while, in ‘Table For One’, it’s Hacker’s heart that’s been broken in a mournful, pedal-steel-strewn blub-fest. ‘First Night’, meanwhile is a crazy ballad inspired by the London riots in which an older man pleads his innocence: "I was swept away by the madness”. 'The Whole of This Town', meanwhile, is sentimental country with horn blasts of Southern soul, sounding a little Van Morrison inspired.
The other facet of the Morton Valence sound is the film influence. ‘The Hawkline Discotheque’ is a wah-wah crazy Lalo Schifrin 70s TV theme, while ‘The Man Most Likely’ is a short choral blast of the purest Morricone western soundtrack. ‘Chinatown’, meanwhile, could be an English take on the Handsome Family's American Gothic as Hacker and the sweet-voiced Anne Gilpin sing their supremely catchy noir pop with a strong sense of taboo-breaking under cover of darkness.
The songwriting is impressive and the execution is often brilliant; they’re hard to pin down but if you aren’t challenged by diversity or need a convenient pigeonhole in which to park this record, then MV deliver as they always have.