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With a name like Blues Pills, you'd expect this multi-national, Sweden-based act to ooze blues... blooze, if you will... and ooze blues they do, which was effluent on their eponymously titled debut two years ago. However, it seems that in the intervening time between their first full length offering and this, 'Lady in Gold', their second long player, they've also been swallowing soul and psychedelic pills to supplement their blues diet, as their music has evolved into a finely crafted amalgam of all three. It's a more expansive sound, that's for sure, albeit still with undeniably retro underpinnings. And I mean uncompromisingly retro through and through, from the music, compositions, arrangements, performances, production and overall aesthetic, which even extends to the delightfully late-60s/early-70s inspired cover art. So, don't expect originality here. That's not what Blues Pills are about. This is an indubitable exercise in retro pastiche and aesthetic mimicry of a bygone era, propelled right back into the twenty first century.

The wonderfully warm, analogue production (good work, Don Alsterberg!) is a key ingredient to the success of Blues Pills intentions here. This sounds like a record out of the 70s, in the most charming of ways, but with just enough modern polish so as not to mar their retro sounds. And the well-composed and arranged songs, for the most part, skilfully and seamlessly transmute the band's blues beginnings into soulful and psychedelic modes of expression. However, the true beating heart at the very core of Blues Pills' subsistence is the ever-awesome vocal talents of Elin Larsson. So natural and emotionally powerful is her delivery, this woman was born to express herself in the realms of blues, soul and psychedelia. And when instrumentations dip below par, such as with 'I Felt a Change', which is perhaps more muzak than music, it's up to Larsson's voice to carry and save the song, which she does with both aplomb and zest.

Aside from said stylistic traits, there are a few sporadic divergences during proceedings, such as with 'Little Boy Preacher', which veers into gospel territory. And 'Gone So Long' threatens to break out into a pastiche of 'Chris Isaak's Wicked Game', with some melodic familiarity, although the melodies manage to swerve that particular source, and develop on their own terms.

Overall, listening to 'Lady in Gold' is a both a satisfying and entertaining experience, although perhaps not a wholly refreshing one. Expect pastiche and mimicry done extraordinarily well and authentically executed, and you'll find much here to adore. Originality? Nope. Look no further than Jess and the Ancient Ones (or offshoot band The Exploding Eyes Orchestra) for a more innovative fusion of psychedelia, soul and blues flavours. Blues Pills do seem to be an evolving entity, though, so I'll be eagerly anticipating just what they'll deliver on album number three.
Nuclear Blast
Review by Mark Holmes
5th August 2016
1) Lady In Gold
2) Little Boy Preacher
3) Burned Out
4) I Felt a Change
5) Gone So Long
6) Bad Talkers
7) You Gotta Try
8) Won't Go Back
9) Rejection
10) Elements and Things
"...they've also been swallowing soul and psychedelic pills to supplement their blues diet, as their music has evolved into a finely crafted amalgam of all three."