Glasgow’s Delgados began this decade with two expansive, orchestral albums that helped guide 21st century indie pop in a tasteful and mature creative arc. Universal Audio, their latest, is less grandiose, especially compared to 2003’s Hate. But the quartet hasn’t yielded to convention, or issued some kind of dud. Audio’s still alive with craft and the Delgados’ cloudy emotions. It just enjoys its straightforwardness. “I Fought the Angels” and “Everybody Come Down” find the beguiling Emma Pollock on lead vocals; it’s sort of weird to hear the songs’ tightly wound melodies, to wonder if the latter is some long lost Lush side. But Alun Woodward challenges that thinking on the lilting chamber popper “Get Action!” “No one ever said to me that I should write a symphony,” he begins, scolding punters expecting another record of reverb symphonies. “Is This All That I Came For?” and “Come Undone” offer a fuller sound, with splashy echo, keys and layered vocals, and “Now & Forever” shifts effortlessly between twinkling harmony lullaby and jittery guitar pop. There’s also the acoustic goodness of “Sink or Swim,” and a punchy, modernized take on XTC called “Girls of Valour.” Statement-making? Maybe not. But Universal Audio is smart pop, plain and simple.
Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].