It might still not be the heavily electronic Mogwai album I've been craving ever since Happy Music For Happy People's 'I Know You Are But What Am I?', and it's probably not quite up to the very high standards of last year's Atomic soundtrack, but Every Country's Sun is still (in my book) a marked improvement in their last LP proper, 2014's Rave Tapes.
The record - whose title, please note, is not a pun - is their first without guitarist John Cummings, so it's understandable that there should be a discernible shift in style. In truth, though, it's less "some of the wildest left turns of the group's 23-year career", as Bandcamp reviewer Ron Hart has claimed, and more evolution than revolution, as the appraisals of the Guardian's Dave Simpson and MusicOMH's Sam Shepherd suggest. Synths are more prominent than before, but nevertheless remain subtle and relatively unobtrusive, used to flesh out the sound rather than dominate the songs.
The album starts with 'Coolverine', the first of several slow-burners, and 'Party In The Dark'. The latter is likely to be the most talked-and-written-about of the tracks on Every Country's Sun simply because it's the most obviously accessible and almost "pop" thing they've ever done. Stuart Braithwaite has provided vocals before, of course, and they haven't always been obscured by the use of a vocoder (see Rock Action's 'Take Me Somewhere Nice', for example) - but 'Party In The Dark' nevertheless feels like it goes a step further, perhaps evidence that his work with side project Minor Victories has had an influence.
'Crossing The Road Material' is very good indeed, and though the LP dips a bit in the middle, I really like the trajectory it takes in getting progressively louder towards the end through 'Don't Believe The Fife', 'Battered At A Scramble' and 'Old Poisons', and the title track brings it to an entirely satisfactory conclusion.