The Tindersticks are one of the few bands that can write a glimmering, gentle ballad about a last chance at love or a drawn-out murder. "Until the Morning Comes" is, for the most part, about encouraging a lover to stay, but the implication of violence is never far from the song's placid, chiming melody. On their sixth studio album, the band traffics in beautiful music that only gradually reveals its nuances -- the smooth textures of the music, wafted along on drafts of strings and perforated periodically with unexpected dissonance or the odd lyrical stab. While nothing on Waiting for the Moon
would technically keep you from falling asleep, there's far too much excellence on display here for you to allow your attention to wander.
After the vague unease and longing of the first track, the band embeds us in a deep groove and the late-night-diner, leather-fedora-noir of "Say Goodbye To The City", with its Nick Cave-style threat of imminent explosion, which finally bursts in a frenzy of anguished trumpet and high-test violins. The nagging violin line that dogs the vocal chant of "I can't see you now / I can't see you anymore" builds to a heroin crescendo, then drops you on the wet pavement. Thankfully, the summer afternoon of "Sweet Memory" drifts by, tumbling piano over cleanly picked guitar, as strings wander (a bit drunkenly) through the grass and "I never want to spend another day / Not another single moment from your side."
Waiting For The Moon has many moods, and from the anthemic strum and flat declamation of "4.48 Psychosis" to the R&B influenced "Trying To Find A Home", to the country-tinged male/female duet of "Sometimes It Hurts", the group explores each song with a subtle hand and a thorough attention to detail. Take, for example, the pitch-perfect FM radio strings backing this last: without conjuring any of the cheese associated with the period, the song takes on all of the richness, nostalgia, and emotion that a bygone era of radio country calls to mind. A trick like this requires not only a willingness to go out on a musical limb, but a historical knowledge and a deft songwriting touch. It's this kind of detailed craft that makes the album so great.
Tindersticks are not a band known for putting out crap. That said, their ability to produce brilliant albums, seemingly without effort, should not in any way detract from the accomplishment of creating each individual brilliant volume. Waiting For The Moon is a welcome and singularly strong addition to one of the most impressive catalogues in modern music.