Spilt Milk Is Out On Fortuna POP! On January 8.
Having never listened to Pete Astor before, I had a clean slate of expectation when I first heard Spilt Milk. Playing the album from start to finish, it feels like a car journey at night where the roads are empty and you’re curled up, on the brink of sleep (hint: you’re not the driver). Indeed Astor takes the wheel, navigating the ups and downs of life and taking you along for the ride. What really surprised me was how present this album feels, an impressive accomplishment for such a long standing artist. I came away feeling optimistic and slightly like writing my own album, which is both a) a really terrible idea and b) the way a good record should make you feel.
The album’s opener, ‘Really Something’ is a highlight – Astor’s voice is warm and familiar even to new ears with the line ‘Here I am again, in the neighbourhood’. Indeed this is about Astor’s new approach to music; with this album he has rediscovered his voice with the help of James Hoare, right hand man on Spilt Milk (though presumably not the subject of aptly titled ‘My Right Hand’). Hoare lends his backup vocals, instrumental prowess, and even his home studio to the project, where the album was recorded.
The more sombre moments, as evidenced in ‘Perfect Life’ and ‘Good Enough’ are not so foreboding as they are realist. There is an acceptance that relationships in the real world can be shit, but with a hopefulness that endears the listener to Astor’s outlook. After much deliberation and many listens just to be sure, ‘Sleeping Tiger’ is the standout song. When I listen to the track, I am the sleeping tiger. It tentatively touches on how it feels to be unsure with a reassuring undertone that everything’s going to be alright.
‘Mr Music’ adds a catchy tune to the mix, and I’d put my money on it being the most played. This probably isn’t fair (RE: ‘Sleeping Tiger’) but people like something to move along to. I get it. ‘Very Good Lock’ is also a mentionable track, exploring the trappings of masculinity and the lengths that people go to when keeping things hidden. Not such a common subject for a song, especially from a male songwriter’s standpoint – this is surprising and refreshing.
The closer is ‘Oh You’, a token love song. Though not a strong finish, it is an appropriate last track for an album that doesn’t need to knock you over the head with its concepts. Like the songs that precede it it’s hopeful and even tempered.
This is clearly an underrated artist who has honed his sound, the result being a distinct style which works for him. Fans of Astor’s brand of cautious soft rock will appreciate Spilt Milk as a nostalgic work, reminiscent of his earlier stuff and a time when music worked without all the bells and whistles.
Needless to say, I like Spilt Milk. Nothing to cry over here.