Happy Valentine’s Day, from Gruff Rhys

Mon, Feb 14, 2011 at 10:28 am ET

Entertainment, f-tunes

Frumped by

The Super Furry Animals front man releases his third solo album today — Hotel Shampoo: A quaint, confessional collection of “piano ballads gone wrong” for loves past, present, and (possibly) future.

Well, that’s a loose synopsis at least. Rhys himself said “there’s no dominant concept” to the album, but let’s just say I doubt the Valentine’s Day release was a serendipitous coincidence.

Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys releases third studio album "Hotel Shampoo"Now, as a huge fan of Super Furry Animals andGruff Rhys, I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking what I’m about to say with a pinch of salt: Intending this to be as objective a take as possible, I truly think there are some exceptional, poignant tracks on Hotel Shampoo; as instantly gratifying as they are difficult to shake days later.

With beautiful lines, harmonies, and solid — if not relatively stripped-down — production haunting the record throughout, Hotel Shampoo is unique enough to provide listeners with a somewhat novel aural experience, yet grounded to the point that its many hooks and changes are quite readily recalled.

Gruff Rhys As usual, hints of Rhys’ work with the Furries are very much there. The sonic packaging and approach, however, is almost all together different — a nice reminder that Gruff’s solo work isn’t merely an extension of his Super Furry Animals output.

This is definitely Rhys’ best, most consistent, and complete effort thus far, and I say that having rather enjoyed his two previous releases —Yr Atal Genhedlaeth and Candylion — in general. The “valleys” don’t dip nearly as low here as on those aforementioned solo adventures, and — while much of the album has a somewhat somber tone — the Valentine’s Day release provides a perfect opportunity to spread this records’ aural love.

Seriously, I’ll be picking up extra copies for gifts…

The full album is streamed above via that insanely cool embeddable. Just click on the little bottles of shampoo.

In lieu of providing breakdowns of individual tracks (you should listen to/explore them for yourself, after all), here’s a quick, general take relative to my personal taste. Oh, and a video for Shark Ridden Waters (plus a bonus live acoustic version) below that. Enjoy!

  • Highlights (in order of appearance): Shark Ridden Waters, Honey All Over, Vitamin K, At the Heart of Love
  • “Also” Highlights: Patterns of Power, If We Were Words (We Would Rhyme), Rubble Rubble
  • Curiosities, growers (?): Sensations in the Dark (of course I wouldn’t be immediately enchanted with the first single), Take a Sentence,  Sophie Softly, Space Dust #2
  • Valleys: Conservation Conversation, Christopher Columbus

Yes, Gruff plays the guitar upside down (learned on his brother’s right-handed axe, never bothered to restring it)

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