There’s been plenty of talk concerning the state of The Clientele these last couple years, primarily about whether the band would continue to exist beyond 2010’s EP “Minotaur”. The main issue on frontman Alasdair MacLean’s part was apparently a lack of inspiration, the thought that perhaps the project in its current state had reached all the potential it could possibly muster. “Maybe if we were asked to score a film,” he said several months back. So while we wait for an official decision as to whether The Clientele will ever make new music again, MacLean has been busying himself with a new project, one that he’s been working on sporadically in the last few years. Amor de Dias is his collaboration with Lupe Núñez-Fernández of the Spanish band Pipas. You might think that taking one part British 60s folk and another part Spanish indie pop would create an interesting mixture of sounds and textures, and on paper the concept most definitely seems frought with potential. Instead though, “Street of the Love of Days”, the debut album from Amor de Dias, showcases just how much the two apparently diverse projects its members came from have in common.
Acoustic folk seems to be the common thread between The Clientele and Pipas, and though it wasn’t exclusive to either band, it’s what comprises many of the songs on “Street of the Love of Days”. Of course there’s more to it than just that, including a few infusions of stylistic traits such as flamenco and bossa nova. Additionally, there are numerous guests that provide additional instrumental work on the record, ranging from Damon & Naomi to Gary Olson of Ladybug Transistor. The styles and additional instruments help to keep things varied just enough to maintain interest, which would otherwise be a huge problem considering how sleepy the entire record is. There’s not much that rises above lullabye status, and Núñez-Fernández’s whisper soft vocals trading off against MacLean’s smooth-as-silk calm voice fails to ignite anything. The thing is, exciting and lively compositions are probably the antithesis of what they were aiming for – not that they wanted to put people to sleep either. Subdued beauty is probably the best descriptor of “Street of the Love of Days”, and the album goes a long way towards avoiding anything that doesn’t fit that mold. As a singular work with such intentions, it succeeds brilliantly. Yet it’s also somewhat flawed.
As the record progresses, or simply to say virtually the entire final third of the album’s 15 tracks, there’s something of a breakdown that occurs. Most of those last few songs are under 2 minutes in length, and you get the impression they could all use an extension. It’s like they had more ideas or more to say, and instead of completing the thought/song the choice was made to just end it early. Nothing ever feels outright cut off, but when most of the songs on the first two-thirds of the album average between 3 and 4 minutes in length, all these quick cuts seem just a little suspect. The other issue with Amor de Dias in general is that the two parts that make up the whole, Núñez-Fernández and MacLean, have both made better music in their main bands. Something that’s been brewing over the course of three years deserves a little better than what we’re given on “Street of the Love of Days”, even if the album has a lot going for it. The creative energy, the variations in influences, and even in some cases the emotion in the vocals, are the bits and pieces that made The Clientele and (to a lesser extent) Pipas bands worth spending time with.
Though Amor de Dias may not quite live up to the promise it shows on paper, “Street of the Love of Days” is still an album worth both your time and money. With summer fast approaching, it’s not exactly coming out during the right season, but should you wait a few months for the leaves to start turning colors, you may find it to be the perfect soundtrack. After all, a re-done version of the Clientele track “Harvest Time” isn’t on here only because it’s a great song. There are lovely and great songs peppered across the record, more standouts in a field of beauty. “House of Flint” is one of the first and most interesting tracks, with MacLean operating at his most dynamic. A Núñez-Fernández highlight comes in the form of mid-album cut “Dream (Dead Hands)”, while MacLean strikes back again immediately afterwards on “I See Your Face”. And just before the final third of the record begins, the title track brings an extra dose of sweetness that carries through those shorter and shakier moments that follow. So as we wait to see what will become of The Clientele, Amor de Dias serves as a nice distraction. It doesn’t quite deserve to be considered a main project, but if this little band chooses to put out more records, there’s definitely still untapped potential that can and deserves to be explored.
Catch Amor de Dias on tour with Damon & Naomi:
May 20 Baltimore, MD – Metro Gallery
May 21 Philadelphia, PA – First Unitarian Church Chapel
May 22 Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory
May 23 Allston, MA – Great Scott
May 25 Toronto, ON – Horseshoe
May 26 Pontiac, MI – Pike Room at Crofoot
May 27 Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
May 28 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock
May 31 Seattle, WA – Tractor Tavern
Jun 01 Portland, OR – Bunk Bar
Jun 03 San Francisco, CA – Bottom of the Hill
Jun 04 Los Angeles, CA – The Satellite
Jun 05 San Diego, CA – Soda Bar