A band returning with a great follow up album, to a very good debut, is sadly a rare feat in this day and age.
With this in mind we've been awaiting The Duke Spirit's Neptune with as much dubious caution as extreme optimism.
With our hats off and heads held high, we can definitely salute the Duke's for not only an incredibly spirited return, but an extremely thoughtful and soulful masterpiece, that may just become a mainstay in our CD collections for a long time.
For those not familiar with The Duke Spirit, they comprise Liela Moss, Luke Ford, Dan Higgins, Toby Butler and Olly Betts. Leila and Luke met at university studying Music and Photography consecutively, the duo then recruited Higgins, Betts and Butler after moving to London. They quite clearly take a lot of their influences from bands like the Pixies, Sonic Youth and Spiritualized.
As much as you can see a variety of musical infusion in their work, The Duke Spirit have definitely come in to their own and have managed to develop their own individually distinct sound. With Neptune, we see well crafted pop songs that have an art-rock edge. The thirteen track album is layered with howls, yelps and crunchy guitar builds. Couple that with Liela's rock chic haunting voice riding the musical storm with hippie-ish, thoughtful lyrics - and we are given a real sensory treat.
'Wooden Heart' is a warming, tender ballad that lingers under your skin. 'Lassoo' goes for a complete different take and feels more like a mix between an indie, disco floor filler and a 60's soul-pop hit. 'With The Step And The Walk' we observe an amalgamation of broody bass lines and chrome retro-pop. 'Dog Roses' is a quirky ballad that is almost sinister and leaves you feeling a little hypnotised. The highlight track on the album has to be 'This Ship Was Built To Last', where Moss drops the punchy attitude and we see yet another depth to her voice, one that shows despondent sincerity.
Neptune can't help but take you on a journey through lyrical high times, sad times and a massive mix of emotions, backed with Ford and Higgins' exceptional, blistering guitars.
It is undoubtedly the dramatic voice of Liela that holds the band together. Her dynamic female rock image that we have missed out so much on in latter years will no doubt leave her soaking up much of The Duke Spirit's hype.
We don't however think that the boys behind her will have to produce badges saying "The Duke Spirit Are Actually A Group". She does have something special but the Duke Spirit is not solely about her. No one can deny the bluesy twin guitar bites of Ford and Higgins are intoxicating.
The Duke Spirit's musical growth has not come without hard work and commitment. Last year saw them touring the USA whilst writing their socks off for Neptune. The travelling has obviously given them a broader more confident outlook, not only adding depth and richness to their sound but also nourishing their creativity. Unquestionably this band has come of age.