Songs of Green Pheasant’s latest record, Aerial Days, is the type of album that should’ve been on numerous best-of lists in 2006. Unfortunately, its near-Christmas release date destined the album to be lost among the fray of pointless greatest-hits albums and other gaudy stocking stuffers. It’s a shame, since Songs of Green Pheasant, a.k.a. Duncan Sumpner, likely released the best late-night come-down record of last year. But ill twists of fate seem to trail this Sheffield native─in 2002, he sent a 4-track demo of his debut to Fat Cat with a bum email address attached. This miscommunication thrust the label into a two-year search before they could track him down and release the demos as his self-titled album in 2005. But luckily Sumpner’s brand of lo-fi shoegaze isn’t the variety of songwriting that goes out of style quickly.
Now a year later, Songs of Green Pheasant has created the sort of introspective music that fits any season. For this album Sumpner has toned down the folk inflections of his debut and instead relies more on drawn-out drones and hazy textures to guide the album along. He has also increased his production possibilities by upgrading from four tracks to eight, allowing more beats, organs and backing vocals to work their way into the fold. His gentle guitar playing still dominates, but in a fashion that lies closer to Flying Saucer Attack or Pan American than Bert Jansch or Will Oldham. Songs such as “Pink by White” and “Wolves Amongst Snowmen” build slowly and carefully, allowing the instruments to meld into sleepy soundscapes. A similar formula is even used on the album to rework John Lennon’s “Dear Prudence” into a spaced-out slow jam.
Aerial Days may only play for a brief 35 minutes, but Songs of Green Pheasant has created a beautiful record that should find its way into many stereos this year.