"Kitchen sink music" is one of those useless terms in music journalism. It's thrown out for eccentric, often energetic, and even "exotic" music that doesn't quite fit into the pop spectrum. Little Comets, a trio out of England, often receives this irritatingly vague label, while their music is anything but. The roots of their bouncy, light guitar-driven, and polyrhythmic tunes comes from the same place as Vampire Weekend— afro-pop, by way of Paul Simon's Graceland.
"The Boy in the Bubble," "You Can Call Me Al," and especially "I Know What I Know" are the major reference points for Life Is Elsewhere, Little Comet's sophomore album from this past year. But the synths are for the most place replaced with breezy, noodling guitar, making this October record more of a summer companion. "Jennifer," the lead single, would feel right at home on the first Vampire Weekend album, and "Jennifer, why you have to be so taciturn?" sounds like it could be the direct product of Ezra Koenig. It's a poppy chorus, though, infectious and easy but with the music behind it hiding rhythmic complexities.
"Waiting in the Shadows in the Dead of Night" stands out as the richest song on the album, densely textured with guitar riffs and a echoing sonic background that Brian Eno might smile upon. And it's in the repetitive chorus that exhibits the metrical singing of lead singer Robert Coles, something that defines many of the songs on the album. Almost as a bonus track, an acoustic, piano version of the same song explores a different mood entirely, one where the shadows in the dead of night are not exciting and adventurous, but deep and solemn.
At 13 songs (not including the "Shadows" alternative take), Life is Elsewhere is burdened only by its length. It rounds out to a solid 50 minutes altogether, but that feels almost excessive, as the second half of the album doesn't quite match the distinctive feel of the first half. A better choice would have been to leave more contemplative tunes like the slow "Woman Woman" for a follow-up EP, keeping album as a whole at a more or less brisk pace, and leaving you wanting more. The listener gets his or her fill of afro-pop from Life is Elsewhere, which may be its only flaw. But it's a healthy fill, and hopefully, Little Comets did not use up all its ideas on this wonderful collection of songs.