Padma Newsome is an anomaly, and one that many wouldn’t recognize without context. When on the stage with The National, he is an enigma, adding sinew to emotive blasts of skin-rippling rock and roll. When wearing his own suit, Clogs, he is the wizard behind the curtain; an orchestral marionette with blistered fingers and a penchant for stringing together orchestral chamber music with a range of American styles.
The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton is Clogs’ fifth album, and its first to feature vocals after four largely instrumental releases. The foray into vocals cements this album – thanks to vocalist Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond – as the most imaginative of the band’s career. Fertile ambience exudes from “The Owl of Love,” Sufjan Stephens joins Worden on the delicate vocal layers and rusty strumming of “We Were Here,” and The National’s Matt Berninger projects winsome longing against hollow resonance with his vocal performance on “Last Song.”
Clogs have placed the austere spirit of classical music in the hands of indie rock progeny and in doing so, have crafted a blissfully engaging song cycle. The often docile background music of Clogs’ early albums is shaken up on The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton; the reformed, revitalized group digs deeper into the subconscious with each passage, and emerges triumphantly with its best, most varied album to date.
The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton is out now on Brassland.