Julian Carax - Turnpike

Owain Paciuszko 07/05/2009

Rating: 4/5

Carax is an artist that came to my attention via a posting about five years ago on the sadly now defunct Ed Harcourt forum, he provided a link to some home recordings under the guise ETMX, a whole album's worth in fact, that featured three songs inparticular that became essential daily listens. But with my flitty, colander-like memory I never kept tabs on his career until quite recently I was listening to one of those old tracks again and decided to try and see what he was up to now.

He's ditched the old ETMX guise, though still links to it on his MySpace page, and has developed and refined his sound. This single Turnpike a new version of one of the ETMX recordings retains the originals intimacy whilst having a shimmering pop-jazz veneer, akin to the recent record by Joan As Police Woman. The Bowie-like bass-line and uplifting piano contrasting nicely with Carax's pleasantly accented singing voice.

B-side Under The Sun is, though, even better. Another remake, but the sparkle put onto the song has improved it immeasurably. This is a perfect pop-song and in a better world would be a huge radio hit this summer, it's got a gloriously sun-kissed, laidback feel with a trumpet solo in the middle played without the aid of a trumpet!

New track, and title track of his album, How High The Moon mixes angry guitar with elegant strings and a wave of melodic backing vocals. It builds and halts then builds again with strident emotion channeled through the contrasting instrumentation, and showcases the darker side of Carax. Whilst the instrumental version, included as a bonus track, features a very familiar drum machine from those ETMX days.

Turnpike and Under The Sun are only available on this single and both are beautiful, refined, intelligent and memorable pop songs, whilst How High The Moon is a great indication of the progression of Carax's sound on his current LP of the same name. Hugely recommended.