Highlights: Silk Threads, Gathering Shadows, Frost At Midnight
As expected, Sarah Nixey’s second album holds no surprises. Broken Tin Soldiers is a well-written, worthy if watered-down version of Black Box Recorder. Still, it’s good to know that she is not merely a fragile singer of dark, sophisticated pop songs (with the emphasis on ‘pop’). The level of songwriting presented here is quite good – even with no Luke Haines (and John Moore?) around.
The main problem with Nixey’s first solo record, Speak, Memory (2007), was her inability to come up with an inspired collection of tunes. With enough darkness and style but not enough edge, those songs sounded way too bland to compensate for the absence of a new Black Box Recorder album (according to Haines’ interviews, the band will never be reformed – same with The Auteurs, of course). Here, though, the edge is aplenty. Granted, there’s not a single tune here that could pass for something more than a decent BBR b-side, but let’s take it for what it’s worth: an atmospheric, gentle, tastefully arranged, dark suite of songs that retains its sinister charm from the memorable “Silk Threads” to the eerily beautiful “Frost At Midnight”.
So while there are moments where you could accuse Broken Tin Soldiers of being a little too diluted, there’s always that dark, understated melodic twist to save it from obscurity. If you ever cared for her style (or her style of singing, for that matter), there’s no reason why you would want to miss this one. It’s quite thrilling – if you pay attention.