Emotional – rather than sonic – clout is its energy source, and Rozi Plain's third album connects at a level beyond mere volume and muscle. The opening Actually sets a scene whispered but devastating: "It will be reported to be a tumultuous year…" Arrangements are thrillingly sparse – shuffling percussion, needlepoint acoustic guitar, vintage synth. Plain sings, as ever with a keen sense of wonder, but this time around she inhabits a freer, warmer world.
The sleepyhead vibe of Best Team, replete with epic, above-the-clouds middle eight, as with much here, masks a sharply focussed vision. Aided by a supporting cast that includes Serafina Steer and Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor, Friend's ten songs are slim but far from slight and Plain emerges as a distinct and sophisticated songwriter. Repeated listenings reveal its homespun charm. Shot through with elements of folk and psychedelia, its timing is spot on: it feels like the coming of spring. [Gary Kaill]