Album Review: ‘Goldilocks’ – The Cosmic Array (2020)
‘Goldilocks’ is the third album from Welsh alt-Americana group The Cosmic Array and one that certainly lives up to its title. At the risk of eliciting an exasperated sigh, this album is ‘just right’.
Having cultivated a unique folk niche for themselves on two previous albums, The Cosmic Array assert their songwriting prowess on ‘Goldilocks’ to produce a record that can easily be taken track-by-track or as a body of work in its entirety.
This album also served as a pleasant introduction to The Cosmic Array for MADCAP Global Music as we explore the world of Welsh music through our recent alliance with the Welsh Connections radio programme and SWND Magazine.
The opening instrumental ‘Animals’ starts curiously, as if from deep underwater, teasing screeching strings that blossom into a lush symphony of guitar and jazz-infused xylophone. It has a meandering, hopeful feel that sets the tone for the journey lying ahead on ‘Goldilocks’.
The album starts in earnest with ‘Empirical Delight’, immediately showcasing the harmonic interplay between vocalists Paul Battenbough and Sarah Passmore. It’s straight-down-the-line Americana complete with a chorus that will have you singing long after the record stops spinning.
Next stop is a dark and smoky cabaret club where strangers sit and ponder, ‘Is That All There Is’. It’s a deep draw from the well of contemplation that shuffles along with gypsy strings and honky-tonk piano leading the way. Haunting backup vocals round out the arrangement, giving a ghostly appeal.
Melancholy is word-of-the-day on ‘Forget The Messenger’. If the message is: ‘The Cosmic Array can break your heart’, message received. It’s the sort of song to play when you’re only just keeping it together while everything else around you is falling apart.
‘Pleasantville’ is a definite standout with its driving beat and lashings of modulated synth that play off against sunshine-soaked guitar. Yet there’s the distinct impression beneath the innocent façade of the songs lurks something dangerous, waiting to reveal itself.
Given that, it seems only logical the album takes a dark turn on ‘Dreamers’, giving The Cosmic Array a chance to show their skills for creating an instant pop-rock classic as easily as they craft contemplative ballads. ‘Dreamers’ is a perfect example of what sets The Cosmic Array apart as an alt-Americana band, leaning heavily on their alternative rock tendencies to maximum effect.
Then comes ‘Blah Blah Blah’, diving headlong back into warbling slide guitar that reminds us why The Cosmic Array should never be underestimated. Again, the vocal harmonies are sublime, and the song offers a dreamy, wistful soundscape in which it becomes easy to lose yourself.
‘Sing Me Your Love Song’ brings us back to upbeat, driving rhythms and a sing-along chorus in triumphant fashion with more of those pop-rock feels.
Just as you’re settling into the vibe of the album, ‘There In A Heartbeat’ pops its head into the tracklist with Lou Reed-style spoken vocals and chunky wah that on any other Americana record would stick out like a sore thumb. But, The Cosmic Array manage the instrumentation with characteristic style and finesse.
Sarah Passmore takes the lead on ‘Creatures’, a swift return to dusty Americana that pairs perfectly with the quietly thoughtful ‘Are You Ready For Me’ before penultimate track ‘We Just Want To Let You Know’ administers one last shot of rock riding along on soulful organ.
The album bookends on ‘Always’, rounding out ‘Goldilocks’ on a dreamy note and leaving the listener with a sense of fulfilment.
‘Goldilocks’ warrants multiple listens to fully appreciate the concept behind the album, but the songs aren’t tied strictly to the overarching narrative and able to be taken piecemeal. This was a profound listening experience and a truly enjoyable introduction to The Cosmic Array, who will soon be taking pride-of-place in various playlists and best-of lists. For long-time fans of the band, may it be another proud chapter in the continuing saga of The Cosmic Array.