Album Review – Asphodel Meadows by The Ashenden Papers (2020) (Secret Center Records)

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Jason Dezember is able to augment an impressive, 30 year, musical CV with indie-pop luminaries such as Plastic Shoelaces, The Bright Ideas, Smog and Nar. His latest project, The Ashenden Papers sits at the shoulder of such ‘cool giants’, with consummate ease.

Over two albums from this sporadic project (the last release being the superb self titled album from 2011) there is always the sense that Dezember is intent on simultaneously discovering the perfect jangly indie-pop song and then contriving just that little bit of ‘leftfield something’ to muddy the waters. It’s almost as if beauty alone, can never really be ‘cool enough’.

Fundamentally he is right. It is this fraction that makes The Ashenden Papers aesthetic thrive beyond the standard. This is best seen in Sea On Sound (see above) where the ink that perfectly stains the pop waters is The Umbrella Puzzles style invasion of twanging guitars. Similarly the true stand out of Companion to the Year (see below) is the jangliest ‘Felt tribute’ ever to include programmed drum beats and glitches to the point of deliberate distraction.

Even the sense of smooth sophisti-pop heard in lead single Melodie Robin is squirreled away behind an accentuation of burnished The Bats style vocals and the sort of startling brass flourishes that Belle and Sebastian would occasionally throw into their late 90s mix.

Of course anything with Dezember in the mix is never going to follow the same intra album template and with his typical sense of obtuse the release presents the listener with an epic final 10 minute title track that startles just both because of it’s unfettered and the fact it simply allowed to be as such. A truly stunning track of beautiful, slow burning jangled ambience.

Two albums over 9 years for this project is really not enough considering the immense quality of both. Let’s hope it’s not another 9 years until the next release !

Artist Links:  Facebook

Label Links:  Official






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