Release Date: January 22, 2015, City Slang

1.Follow Me/2. Second Chance Man/3. Were We Once Lovers?/4. Help Yourself/5.Hey Lucinda/ 6.Fear Of Emptiness/7.How He Entered/8. The Waiting Room/9. Planting Holes/10.We Are Dreamers/11.Like Only Lovers Can

Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot others transform a yellow spot into the sun…’ Pablo Picasso

…in any case, when Mr Staples has something to communicate with us it’s best we pour ourselves our favourite drink, sit down and listen…In some cases we are anxious to listen to the next album of a band, the moment the previous one has been released. Other musicians will only work on something when the time is right for them and the final result is usually worth the wait. Tindersticks only release music when the time is right for them and the result has always been unique. In the same way that few painters rework on finished paintings, Stuart Staples occasionally revisits his own songs thus indulging in a creative self criticism of sorts. On occasions Tindersticks have offered different versions of older songs, responding to a need to give another form to what the lyrics are describing.

 “And that means something to me, because everyone thinks ‘Tindersticks’ and they think ‘melancholy’- that’s us. But making music is never about just one feeling. There’ alsways some ambiguity and that area most interesting area to explore… (Stuart Staples, extract from an interview)

With a career spanning 23 years and after having offered us work that has successfully blended music with film in more ways than one can think of, Tindersticks have quite consciously placed themselves outside the music trends of each decade. Music and art in general, can only be timeless if their making follows personal rules, moods, aesthetics and ideas. Tindersticks have never chosen to compose music that didn’t follow their own artistic and emotional drives. There are artists that make beautiful work and others that create poetry. Some are inspired by poems and others create poems inspired by everyday situations. Tindersticks have always represented the second type of artists and their work has only had one measure of quality…their own previously released music.The band has revealed its music vocabulary so far which consists of two main music ‘languages’. The first is minimal, jazz/soul inspired phrases which are almost ‘bare’ consisting of the most essential element in its simplest form, rhythm. Yet this rhythm is never devoid of ‘colours’ and has never been provided by just one instrument. The second way the band draws us in their (and our) inner world, is through the melodies that surround the unique voice of Stuart Staples. The melodies throughout the years have provided to us, the audience, the setting for some unsettling, even sad thoughts wrapped around a romanticism comparable to that of a film noir.

The Waiting Room

So here we are with the 10th studio album of the band entitled ‘The Waiting Room’ about to be released. If the whole discography of Tindersticks represents a choreography with different scenes, then ‘The Waiting Room’ is definitely one of the most interesting ones! This is not a simple album but a music/film project in collaboration with Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and its chief Calmin Borel. The album has a memorable cover which is definitely one of the best album covers that the band has used to date. Tindersticks collaborated with the french photographer Richard Dumas for the sleeve of this album. The 11 songs of the album are accompanied by 11 short films which have been directed by several directors including Stuart Staples himself.Perhaps we can only grasp the essence of  the project entitled ‘The Waiting Room’ after we have listened to the album against the backdrop of the short films. The band always had a very strong theatrical/cinematic element in the performance of the lyrics and for me as a listener it didn’t really matter whether their album was a soundtrack for a movie or not. The way that every song and every word of the lyrics has been performed always make me start imagining the setting in which everything that the lyrics describe, would happen. This quality is enhanced in this album and at the end of it your pulse will be racing and you will want to listen to it again…this time maybe even dance to it!

In a Tindersticks album, there is always a song that references the music of Ennio Morricone or its atmosphere and there is one such song in this album as well. This is ‘Follow Me’. In this album I guess the ‘protagonist’ instrument is the melodica. It takes up different roles and puts on many ‘masks’ in order to convey different ideas, each with different intensity. Don’t be fooled by the soulful start of ‘Second Chance Man’ that follows, the song builds up energy and passion towards the last minute (2.44- 3.08) as the trombone, saxophone and the trumpet highlight the determination and strength which are intrinsic elements of the lyrics and of Staples’ performance. In ‘Were We Once Lovers’ I liked the echoing and layering of vocals (after 1.43 and at the end of the song).Earl Harvin is providing backing vocals in this song after 2.15. It is noticeable how simple yet aesthetically strong is the accompanying rhythm of the vocals up until 1.43 and then after 2.43 until 3.25. I liked how the energy changes twice within the song as a result of the rhythmic alterations and how this and the layering of vocals, multiplied the levels of the song! In different mood from ‘Second Chance Man’, ‘Help Yourself’ a soul inspired song, brings in the foreground trumpets, saxophones and trombone in an almost equally important role as the vocals.

All this happens before the first duet ‘takes you by the hand’ and puts you inside Lucinda’s thoughts. It’s rare to find a duet in a Tindersticks album (we remember ‘Travelling Light’ from the album ‘Tindersticks’ where Carla Torgerson provided the female vocals, ‘Peanuts’ in the album ‘Falling Down A Mountain’ where Mary Margaret O’Hara accompanied Stuart Staples).In Hey Lucinda the ‘smoked’ vocals by Lhasa De Sela are combined with Staples’ unique voice and the result causes the same emotional intensity as a duet by Nick Cave and PJ Harvey. The cinematic element of the album is fully revealed in this song as each singer seems to be thinking loud and not talking directly to each other. I immediately tried to build the setting where this imaginative ‘conversation’ would have been carried out. The video that accompanies this song is showing to us  images that somehow seem to be a critique on the american/middle class dream. We see a big house, families and children going in and out of amusement parks and the video seems to stress the vanity of all this.

…I only dance to remember how dancing used to be… (lyrics from the song: ‘Hey Lucinda’)

…but this is a Tindersticks tailored duet so there is emotional suspension that is building up through a gentle melody produced by the glockenspiel and the harmonium that create a sonic background that aims to blur the limits between a ballad and a lullaby…just before the trombone ‘interrupts’ the calmness of this ‘dialogue’ and ‘tries’ to pull our feelings down to earth again…unsuccessfully of course.  At the end of the song I have come to conclude that probably Lucinda has not been convinced to go out for a dance…

If the album has not got a strong grip on your heart and soul by this point I can only assure you that there is more to follow. In ‘Fear of Emptiness’, an instrumental song that follows this amazing duet, melodica once again becomes an engaging storyteller and helps us travel to a calmer setting (compared with the one that the duet has put us). ‘How He Entered’ is a theatrical song whose title and lyrics formed various questions such as ‘who is this ‘he’ ‘ in the title? Where did he enter and most importantly what happened to him after he entered …with an open heart and his eyes wide… as the lyrics describe? The melody provides some emotional relief to this mysterious situation that the lyrics describe. The percussion references soul music again, but the overall style of the song has absolutely no similarity with a ‘traditional’ soul song. Many rhythms are changing at least three times within the song, creating once again multiple levels of interpretation to the meaning of the lyrics. ‘The Waiting Room’ and ‘Planting Holes’ are the most ‘naked’ in terms of melodies, rhythms, songs of this album and maybe the saddest. I think that ‘The Waiting Room’ somehow replicates the agony and the stillness of time experienced in any kind of waiting room…Melody could not be more simple than what surrounds the vocals in this song. It is still discernible if you want to hear it and is provided by the organ and cymbal. ‘Planting Holes’ puts us in an emotional low for a little over 2 minutes but there is a reason for that…

The album has two more songs before it finishes and did you for one moment think that it would finish like this?

Remember the energy of ‘Drunk Tank’? An incarnation of Tindersticks from the past has crawled back through ‘We Are Dreamers’ because it must have been about time they shook us up again like they did back in 1993! ‘We Are Dreamers’ is a 5.21’ long song that I played repeatedly three times in a row the first time I listened to this album. This is the second duet of the album and its second highlight as it features Jehnny Beth from Savages. This is a song that asserts dreams just as surrealists idolized dreams as the most valuable ingredient for their inspiration. This song sounds like a sonic manifesto of sorts. Be ready to be mesmerized  as the bass, drums, percussion, tenor saxophone, Stuart Staples and Jehnny Beth will stir you up for a few minutes. We Are Dreamers is one of the two songs whose videos have already been released. The video shows a huge track traversing a muddy landscape and a figure dressed in white that holds a shovel. The track moves in and out of sight, forever levelling the site before dropping more dirt on a spot. At the end of the song we see a close up of the wheels of the truck which resemble cogwheels. I prefer to listen to the song without watching this video whose symbolism I feel might be reducing the positive meaning of the lyrics.

The album leaves us ‘like only lovers can’ with a soulful song. And just as we finish the drink that we poured ourselves at the beginning of it we are left with the belief that this is an album whose energy is more intense and whose atmosphere is more engaging than everything we have listened to by Tindersticks the past 5 years.

Blaue Rosen box

Tindersticks will present the album at Rough Trade East the day of its release, January 22, 2016 and will also appear live at the Barbican on April 29, 2016!‘The Waiting Room’ will be available as a limited edition CD/DVD, LP /DVD and very limited clear vinyl LP/DVD via City Slang on Jan 22nd2016.You can preorder the album by following this link:

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