Tempting to say this came from nowhere, but actually there were one or two portents, most significantly Special Occasion’s spotless Big Town 12” for Born Free last year. Based on who knows what I’d figured that record was a glorious one-off, but David C. Gray and Guy Gormley have surpassed themselves with this tape on their own Jolly Discs imprint. Gently surreal, awkward-fluent, urban-pastoral avant-pop songs in best Wyatt / Eno / G.Williams / Newman tradition, dressed with muted lovelorn horns, hoarse Rock Bottom keyboards and playful but carefully weighted bossa and house-wise rhythms. DIY that’s brave enough to use contemporary tools and technique rather than retreat into 80s pastiche, it stands out on the merit of the songs and the words, which are ambiguous but affecting, with a blue-eyed soul vibe judged just right (and down-at-heel not flash with cash). At various points The Word put me in mind of Scritti, The Blue Nile, Woo, Studio, Disco Inferno, Fish From Tahiti, Sam Prekop...but it has a sadness and sway all its own, and like I say it feels honest, not overly calculated, and above all contemporary. An excellent and refreshingly off-message tape (whatever the message is supposed to be). Highly recommended.