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First Watch: Lawrence Arabia, 'The Listening Times'

Oct 3, 2012
Originally published on October 5, 2012 8:49 am

If it were the late 1960s, Lawrence Arabia might be one of the biggest bands in the world. The group, which is essentially the sole work of New Zealand artist James Milne, makes trippy, perfectly composed, melodic pop, similar to classic works by The Zombies or The Beatles. Lawrence Arabia's latest album, The Sparrow, is awash in dreamy psychedelia, with sweet harmonies and moody grooves anchored by Milne's fat Hofner bass.

Lawrence Arabia's latest video, for "The Listening Times," features a stone-faced James Milne wandering through a stark, mono-colored world as he sings about being lost in solitary thought in the dreamlike hours before dawn.

In an email, Milne tells us that the song is "about this kind of conversational dead end that happens at roughly 6 a.m., when you've been up all night partying. When the last vestiges of everyday humanity begin to ebb from the gathered personnel and they become conceited, dumb beasts, talking endlessly about being young and 'living in the moment.'"

For the video, Milne partnered with New Zealand filmmaker Simon Ward to create a strangely illuminated world untethered to any specific place or time. "I had in my mind some kind of old television special that felt like some enigmatic 'no-place,'" Milne says. "I knew my vision was kind of Eastern Bloc-ish, so eventually Simon and I found this stream of brilliant Polish pop-music specials from the 1960s, all dramatically lit and ominously shot. Quite serious despite some of the fluffy musical content. So basically, with the aid of a cool old VHS camera and Simon's wonderful instincts and attention to detail, we paid homage to this lost style of pop video."

You can hear more from Lawrence Arabia's The Sparrow on All Songs Considered.

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