Van Morrison's Astral Weeks has come to signify a soulful impressionism that wells up from sources Wordsworth deemed "too deep for tears." Every note Nick Drake recorded before his accidental overdose in 1974 throbs with similar aching beauty. Morning-glory vocals, couplets of such Elizabethan elegance as "Open up the broken cup/Let goodly sin and sunshine in" and arrangements that wed jazz freedom to the dignity of string quartets make his music — part folk song, part art song — incandescent. Working a single mood almost exclusively — ecstatic yearning — Drake captures in songs like "Northern Sky" and "Time of No Reply" moments of uncanny grace.
A swirl of guitars, violin, trumpet, vibe and bassoon, Tindersticks' nearly 80-minute debut is mood music of a more anxious variety than Drake's. From Nottingham, England, the sextet overlays Stuart Staples' espresso-dark vocals with rough, rich texture. Their best tunes — "City Sickness," "Nectar," "Jism" — glimmer like dreams.