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18 février 2006

Elbow "Leaders of the Free World" (V2)

Anyone who sings as much about rain, black skies and alienation as this quintet does is either painfully unlucky in love or English.

This group is both, conjuring a palpable sense of place, specifically London, in spots in its haunting third album. It's a record (in stores Tuesday) that channels — who else? — Coldplay as well as Snow Patrol and even Peter Gabriel in its romantic yearnings and feelings of existential isolation.

The raw production makes it sound like Coldplay's Chris Martin banging out demo tapes from his garage, but the rough sonics directly parallel the frayed emotions lyricist and singer Guy Garvey puts on display, mostly emanating from the all-consuming obsession that can accompany failed relationships.

He has a poet's knack for evoking a world of feeling in the space of a few well-chosen words. He sings, "You were there / Puncture repair" as healing begins in "Puncture Repair"; "Shop shutters rattle down" telegraphs the way emotional self-defense kicks in with hurt in
"Forget Myself."

Garvey's voice, its lovely high register contrasting with a dusky lower range, conveys the multiplicity of responses to love's elusiveness — loneliness, self-pity, sadness, anger, confusion, hope — all of which blossom in "The Stops" into a shimmeringly gorgeous, Brian Wilson-esque pop chorus.

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