Lamb, Best Kept Secrets: The Best of Lamb 1996-2004

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

By late 2004, the overwhelming flood of electronic acts had slowed to a manageable stream, making it a good time to reappraise overlooked oeuvres such as that of Manchester duo Lamb, a band that has never fit in anywhere. Over the course of the four albums sampled here, Lamb never landed their luscious atmospherics in a high-profile commercial; their refined approach to matching genre-free songwriting (Is it folk, jazz, pop or art-song?) to equally untethered arrangements also left them without an in-crowd niche. Emphasizing neither voice nor rhythm, Andrew Barlow's arrangements are too often too anxious for the chill-out box; they're packed with off-kilter beats but stop short of conventional dance music. Singer Louise Rhodes similarly emphasizes focused emotion over hooks, yet ballads like "Gorecki" and "Gabriel" suggest Sarah McLachlan hits in an ideal world, and Barlow's skill at integrating natural instruments with digitized trickery helps Lamb achieve a lofty hybrid beauty akin to Massive Attack. This collection serves notice to the wide audience this pair have deserved all along.