With 2001's Mercury Prize-nominated Asleep in the Back, it was clear that Elbow were a band that ploughed their own furrow, pandered to neither an obscure nor a mainstream bent, but who could still please a varied cross-section of the musical population. Three albums on from that monumentally beautiful debut, Guy Garvey et al are still crafting the same brand of lush, cinematic and occasionally off-kilter indie, but there's a sense with The Seldom Seen Kid that it'll be a long time before they come full-circle with their sound.
In more than one way, Elbow have proven themselves to be a contrary beast; a band whose compositions seem to lack structure at times, but as finished products, are tied together seamlessly and seemingly effortlessly. The glitchy string-and-horn laden Starlings sets the tone adeptly; an unbearably sweet love song ('You are the only thing in every room you're ever in'), it unfurls, like many other tracks here, layer by atmospheric layer. So, too, does the sophisticated, wry melancholia of An Audience With the Pope, the iridescent, soul-tinted groove of One Day Like This or the taut, surprisingly sombre The Fix, featuring fellow Northerner Richard Hawley on crooning duty.
The standouts, however, are a brace of tracks amongst the best they've written yet. Grounds for Divorce's growl-and-clatter guitar/piano setup makes for a powerful, concise and memorable single, and if your heart doesn't at least bruise upon hearing Garvey's gruff 'Love ya, mate' on tender, austere tribute to a lost cohort Friends of Ours, you should probably check that it's still beating.
All of that, and still barely time for a mention of their most potent weapon of all - Guy Garvey's phenomenal throaty rasp. It gets better with every album. On this evidence, so do Elbow.