To tell you the absolute truth, I hadn't heard a smidge of press on Salako before I got there album (although they have another full length album, Reinventing Punctuation). One of the only reasons I picked it up in the first place (and this is kind of a silly one) is that I saw it was on the Jeepster label (home of Belle and Sebastian, among others). I figured that if I liked it even half as much as I like B&S' stuff, then I'd be in business.
As it turns out, Salako is a pretty decent little group in their own right. Although the cover looks like a promo screen for a kids show on PBS, they're not quite as saccarin as it may lead you to believe. They don't sound much at all like the aforementioned group (which is good, considering that people would then do nothing but draw comparisons), but instead have a great experimental pop aesthetic to their music and have more in common with Beta Band (albeit, with much shorter tracks), early Blur, and even more so with the eternally-underated Boo Radleys. With 17 tracks in less than 50 minutes, none of the songs stray for too long even though there is quite a bit of noodling around on different tracks. Instead of having all the lyrics spelled out in the booklet, the group instead gives ideas they had while making the tracks and the things that they were trying to convey. While some of it comes off as a bit pretentious, I think it's a nice little addition.
Things start out on a very organic note with a field recording of birds on "The Bird and the Bag." Lyrically, it follows the journey of a bird south for the winter, and it's a simple little upbeat track flavored with a touch of horns at the end. After the slower "Green Is the Colour of Evil," the group goes into the nice sing-along track "Come! Follow Me." The beginning of the track starts out with a simple little drum machine track and some flute playing until a strumming guitar and some echoed vocals find their way into the mix. It's as light as cotton candy. The group then goes into a couple shorter, more experimental tracks, including the hand-clapping "Truth In Me" and the Beta-Band sounding "The Cloning of Fudadee Ulae."
Although it definitely sounds like it, the band says that "Look Left" isn't about religion. The vocals suggest it, and the 200-plus member chorus singing the final refrain helps a bit as well. Either way you believe, though, it's a great track. The group follows that song up with "Look Right," a jaunty, guitar-driven track that almost encorporates a bit of old country western feel to it. The group strips things down a bit more on "Do It Yourself" when the only elements are an acoustic guitar, some stringed instruments, and soft vocals that coincide with a bunch of different muffled sound effects (like a ringing phone, sawing wood, and breaking glass). It's a little addition that is used subtlely to great effect. The same sort of environmental sounds are added on "Cult Of Winter" with the sound of feet crunching through frozen snow. The disc closes out with the simple acoustic strummings and soft vocals of "Magicality." The song (like most others on the disc) is filled in with other instrumentation like flute, violin, mellotron, and a couple others. While the songs are fairly catchy by themselves, the group is very good at putting lots of different instrumenation to good use on the disc without making things sound cluttered or forced. The different flavors are all welcome additions and the disc marks Salako as yet another young UK band to pay attention to.