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Review: Amor De Dias' The House at Sea

Merge Records; Release date: Jan. 29, 2013

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Often, when Brits and Spaniards mix, unpleasantness ensues. The two colonial powers warred regularly and, today, pasty white yobbos on holiday turn the Costa del Sol into a sunnier patch of the East End.

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But it's not all gloomy. It turns out that flamenco strums and sunny bossa nova go well with rainy and moody Brit pop, at least judging from the second effort between Alasdair MacLean (The Clientele) and the Pipas' Lupe Núñez-Fernández. The first, 2011's Street of the Love of Days, had one or two promising moments, but its 15 drowsy tracks felt over-long and undercooked, like the work of two songwriters clumsily grafted together.

But the stitching no longer shows on The House at Sea. Recorded and mixed in just nine days, these dozen tracks find the Núñez-Fernández/MacLean duo merging their Spanish guitars, hooky melodies and counterpoint harmonies into a pleasing, dreamy whole. In that musical connection, the record's dominant vibe — a wistful part-Gilberto Gil, part-Hollies '60s pop strain — locks the songwriters' styles together.

As he does with The Clientele, MacLean brings life to languid tempos by infusing them with warm textures made from electric and acoustic guitars, judicious keys and intricate cross-harmonies. Pitch-perfect pop like "Jean's Waving," and the dreamy "Hampshire Lullaby," are indistinguishable from MacLean's parent band, save for the female back-up vocals. And those pillow-talk vocals — the Spanish on "Viento del Mar" seduces totalmente — and bossa nova and flamenco tempos are what make Núñez-Fernández's songs suitable dream-pop companions.

The LP sags some toward the end, but otherwise this Spanish-British détente is a success.

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