Excitement. It’s as rare a commodity as it’s ever been for intrepid writers like myself; heads in the clouds from our vantage points up in the metaphorical crow’s nest with a long-range telescope, hoping that one day something might appear over the musical horizon to surprise us.

“Husband [are] capable of knocking out such intelligent, meticulous compositions for a pastime.”

At the tail end of last year, Husband’s single What A World was one such surprise. Five minutes of sit-up-and-take-notice, stuffed full of not only weariness but disorientation; the troubles in an individual’s life reduced to a mere speck of dust on a global stage: “well what can I say, except I’m sorry I turned out this way,” it lamented. The arrival of two exceptional lockdown releases already in Mirrors and Decade proved that was no flash in the pan and that Husband were capable of knocking out such intelligent, meticulous compositions for a pastime.

Husband tell us that they produce “moody, powerful, evocative alt-rock”. While that isn’t in any way telling lies, it helps when you also have a signature instrument in your armoury. For Husband, it is undoubtedly the astonishingly powerful baritone of singer Dharshika, a voice which by turns can evoke The National’s Matt Berninger, Cousteau’s Liam McKahey or even Scott Walker, without somehow losing its individual character. It’s rare to hear vocals delivered with emotion, finesse and technique in such perfect synchronicity.

“[Sleepyhead] calls out in hope for another generation of disenfranchised, prepared to die with their boots on if necessary.”

Latest release Sleepyhead sees a dimming of the light and shade present in Husband’s repertoire so far. Recorded once more with Sean Read (Manic Street Preachers, Edwyn Collins) at Famous Times Studio in Hackney, it reeks of minor-chord gothic foreboding, perhaps with a little reminiscence of The Birthday Party. The band explain: “from earliest memory, we are schooled to be ready for a lifetime of towing the corporate line. Sleepyhead talks of those that fight that system.” Dharshika’s defiant bellow “we are here, waiting to be found” calls out in hope for another generation of disenfranchised, prepared to die with their boots on if necessary. The virtuosity of previous releases is kept firmly on a short leash, as layers of guitar build purposefully to a wall-crushing climax. Co-release I Don’t Sleep starts as a lower-key waltz affair, scratches of Jonny Greenwood-esque guitar, giving way to overdriven power chords as the vocal ratchets up from deep in the quiet claustrophobia. Beautiful.

Husband have big plans for the remainder of the year, once some normality can return. “We had time booked in to go to the studio to record two more songs in April to finish off the album, but that’s obviously now been delayed,” they tell Underscore Part 3. “We’re itching to get back into the studio when we can to polish off the album and hopefully get something out before the winter”.

The excitement refuses to relent.

8/10

Sleepyhead is out now.

Words: Iain Dalgleish @idalgleishmusic