'Big August' from Upwards of Summer by Ralegh Long
There was a compilation released this year called I Remember That!: 12 sophistipop tunes quoted out of context. Now I am ambivalent at best about the term ‘Sophistipop’ but crikey it was a terrific collection, one highlight of which was Ralegh Long’s take on Prefab Sprout’s wonderful ‘Swans’. The Prefab Sprout reference is a great one to make, particularly since Ralegh Long's Upwards of Summer set this year built so splendidly on his previous recordings in much the same way as Prefab Sprout productions allowed Paddy MacAloon to neatly sidestep being crippled with the sensitive singer/songwriter tag. So whilst on Upwards of Summer Ralegh Long retained something of his soft tread, the songs here were fleshed out and sprinkled with golden light as much as with morning dew. At times the sound ventured almost into the realms of Dreampop, as though Nick Drake had stumbled into a Moose rehearsal circa 1991. Perhaps.
Cut of choice for me is the memorable ‘Big August’ wherein Long paints gently psychedelic landscapes of languorous afternoons of summer. Slide guitars sidle alongside subtle strums with "greens the colour of orange” and “reds the colour of blues”. It’s the Big Skies of Hurrah! and The Kinks refracted through countrified kaleidoscopes; Constable reimagined by Franz Marc; Skylarking snogging The Colour Of Spring. For me ‘Big August’ soundtracked blazing Asturian mountain sojourns and days on the Galician Coast of Death yet I am sure it would do just as well as a backdrop for early mornings by the harbour in Lowestoft or evenings floating slowly down the Cherwell. The sound of European suns in English country gardens. Perhaps.