Super Furry Animals deftly traverse so many styles and influences—often within one song—that it's no surprise the Welsh five-piece have remained more critical darling than household name unit-mover. The fickle, attention-deficient consumer is far less likely to undertake the repeated listens necessary to realize the tremendous skill with which SFA dispense such gems of progressive pop. That said, their latest release, Love Kraft, is arguably the most comprehensive distillation and immediate take of their sound to date.
The album still gets pretty crowded, what with everything from contemporary psychedelia and Americana to '70s pop-rock and '90s-style electronica showing up, augmented by the frequent and welcome appearance of a 100-person Catalan choir. But Kraft finds the boys more often sticking to one idea per song, and the result is another would-be sleeper masterpiece. Electronic elements—ironically the band's Achilles heel (they originally formed to make techno)—subtly accent songs instead of their previous tendency to co-opt the compositions, and this time each member takes a crack at singing. The foot-stomping sing-along "The Horn" calls to mind Sgt. Pepper's–era Beatles, and the vocal harmonizing on "Ohio Heat" successfully channels early Crosby, Stills & Nash. The first 30 seconds of "Laser Beam" show an understanding of the best parts of Primal Scream's electronic reinvention. And of course the multifaceted and dense compositions suggest a distinct Brian Wilson appreciation. The result sounds remarkably cohesive, if only a smidge more "accessible" than previous work.