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Hooton Tennis Club - Big Box of Chocolates

(Vinyl LP)

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Item: LDH43935

If their 2015 debut, Highest Point In Cliff Town, was Hooton Tennis Club's sprightly statement of intent, Big Box of Chocolates may well be their coming-of-age: a record that retains all the color and invention of their first outing, while being elevated by richer instrumentation and lyrics that hint at slightly heavier themes: love and loss, nihilism and the ‘non-spaces' of Northern England, all delivered in the band's typically laconic, bittersweet style, like a Mersey Beat Murakami.

The dozen tracks continue the band's knack of combining catchy off-kilter riffs with droll storytelling; album narrators – vocalists and guitarists Ryan Murphy and James Madden – seem to straddle optimism and uncertainty with their lyrics, whether singing about their internal worlds or commenting on a motley cast of characters (Bootcut Jimmy, Lauren Laverne, Lazers Linda) who turn up across the album's 41 minutes to amuse, tempt or torment them. Whether fictional (the awkward genius Jimmy "looking shifty in his new shoes") or real (Ryan's ex-housemate immortalized in first single "Katy-Anne Bellis"), each character shares an equal platform, all revered in Hooton's own low-key way.

Recorded over three weeks in Helmsdale, during which time they all grew beards, drank copious amounts of tea, became birdwatchers and whiskey tipplers, the album reflects the band's relaxed approach to songwriting; they tend not to labor over recording demos or strumming and beating the life out of songs in the practice room - instead, ideas are allowed to form spontaneously: melodies are hummed into phones or computers, lyrics batted back and forth between Murphy and Madden, songs worked out alone in the bedroom, or layered up from scratch together in the studio.

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