It's rare for reviews of an album to be not only unanimous in their verdict but also practically identical in their content - but that's been the case for Hookworms' third LP Microshift. It's almost as if there was a law decreeing that the following things had to be mentioned:
1. The title is an understatement if not an outright irony because the album actually marks a significant departure from its predecessors. As the band themselves have admitted, The Hum (as good as it undoubtedly was) was essentially a retread of Pearl Mystic, the debut that propelled them to attention, so it's not that much of a surprise that they were inclined to make a larger leap this time around. While still recognisably them, the psych snowstorms and guitar assaults have been toned down, and the synth and pop have been turned up. For the first time, MJ's lyrics are clearly audible. It's as though neither he nor the band are hiding any more.
2. The change, it has been repeatedly claimed, can probably be traced back to the flood on Boxing Day 2015 that destroyed the band's studio. The consistent narrative - that it was a traumatic experience but one that seems to have led to a period of reflection and a decision to start anew - is perhaps a little too neat and tidy, but it does have the ring of truth about it.
3. The album consistently achieves the tricky feat of marrying often downbeat lyrical subject matter to music that verges on the euphoric - singles 'Negative Space' and 'Ullswater' being cases in point. Indeed, the former - a song lamenting the death of a friend that is nevertheless designed to be danceable - draws obvious (to me, at least) comparisons with LCD Soundsystem's 'Someone Great'.
Needless to say, I concur with all of this - and with the consensus that suggests Microshift will be a strong contender for the year's best album.