The Proper Ornaments are ever looking back while trying to go forward. Limiting themselves to using an old eight track recorder on Foxhole has delivered a spacious. sparse sound. Whilst fashionable retroisms can often be a little misplaced, there is good craft in their approach, which buys the record enough good will. The tinny, effected vocals melt into the atmosphere on "1969". The casual composition of "When We Were Young" teases us, as the shortest track on the record is one of its most alluring. In fact, this is a steady record, with many nice turns. To mention only a couple of tracks is probably to do it a disservice, as it is really a full, start to finish listening experience. A record that works best as an understated whole, rather than a few peak moments.
When it's all done, you can hear that this is a good band, doing some good things but I wonder if with more focus or investment it might bear greater results. In fact, the same might be said of either one of TOY or Veronica Falls - it is not a lack of talent it seems, just a sign of the times.
(The Line Of Best Fit)
The Ornaments take their time on Foxhole. Tunes built on layers of acoustic guitar, piano, and soft percussion unwind lazily, never drawing too much attention to themselves (see, in particular, “I Know You Know,” a dead ringer for a B-side from the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Stoned & Dethroned sessions). No one plays very hard, yet the melodies stick. As with Wooden Head, the Ornaments’ power lies in their restraint.
Despite all the comfy sounds, the band’s lyrical vision is chilly, dead-eyed, sinister. A near-suffocating sense of regret over lost love and good times past hangs over the entire record. On “Cremated,” Oscarnold longs to be turned to ash with his former lover, their remains dumped together in the same jar. The album title itself is a reference to the claustrophobic horrors of war: “Private, don’t speak/Don’t move at all/Keep your head down/In the foxhole,” Hoare sings on “Jeremy’s Song.” (…)
The Ornaments are yet another in a long line of floppy-haired guitar bands flying the flag of a purer pop past, but they’re also, unmistakably, one of the better, least pretentious ones. Sometimes it pays to be grateful rather than cynical.