As the guitarist in Britpop band Maximo Park, Duncan Lloyd supplied the band with a cadre of sharp, spiky riffs that helped elevate those songs into high-velocity rockers. It’s understandable then that for his latest solo album, Lloyd allows his playing to expand, evolve and explore new textures and moods within this nine-song collection of intricate compositions.
There’s a looseness to the structures and atmosphere of the tracks on Outside Notion. Opener “Historic Elements” is a cool and breezy tune that drifts along like a wind over the ocean, with glassy, smooth guitars. Things begin solemnly in the desolate “5 a.m. Eyes”, which sounds like the sun rising over a desert morning, with the lyrics poetic statements of strengths (“I’ll fight for your cause and your memory”). As the strings arrangements layer over each other, the song evolves into a whimsical ballad.
It’s easy to hear notes of Pink Floyd and Kings of Convenience on Outside Notion, through the dreamy, mid-tempo vocals and progressive rock arpeggios that build the tracks into spacious jams (see the very spacious “Planetarium”), or the hazy, swooning duet with Sarah Suri on the rolling title track. There’s also a deft cinematic quality to the songs here, as they conjure indelible imagery. “Journey B” is acoustic folk made for a drive down a country road, while “‘Til the Fear Breaks” is begging to soundtrack a future Wes Anderson film.
Single “Young Dreams” brings together various disparate elements into a unique musical experience; it opens with a swirling, eccentric instrumental prelude, before bursting into a sweet, pop rock melody that’s equal part lovelorn and content, and then blazes out with a cathartic guitar solo.
The complexity of this track, makes the near simplicity of album closer “First, Monday” all the more surprising. Built on a simple drum beat and methodical guitar riff, the song relies on Beatles-esque vocal melodies to add a hypnotic flare, as richer orchestration eventually comes in and brings the record to a quirky conclusion.
While not conventional rock music in any sense, Outside Notion is a strong audible experience that has enough musical dexterity and ingenuity to attract fans who appreciate a deep listening experience, while also having plenty of effervescent hooks and emotional resonance to appeal to a casual listener. It’s a collection that will grow on you with repeat listens, and is worth all those minutes of rapt attention.