Padraig Cooney is one of the most prolific songwriters in the country and is synonymous with all things Popical Island. Following last year’s stellar Skelocrats album, Cooney returns to the first band that gained him attention, Land Lovers, for their third album ‘The Rooks Have Returned’. As enjoyable as the Skelocrats’ albums have been, Land Lovers brings out a more ornate side of Cooney’s songwriting that’s absent from his other projects. Cooney is constantly writing and in an interview with GoldenPlec last year, he stated that he stores away the simpler songs for Skelocrats.

That’s doesn’t mean Land Lovers are entering prog rock territory with ‘The Rooks Have Returned’, just a refinement of their formula. It’s classic song writing in the vein of Elvis Costello, full of depth with occasional use of strings and layered instrumentation.  Opening track Springtime For The Mystics is ushered in with swathes of synth that signal a lush approach that reveals more upon repeat listens.

The sweeping Montecassino is Belle & Sebastian-esque in its understated grandeur.  As this is Land Lovers third album, you’d expect an assured touch to their songs and the arrangement of the music exudes it.  There’s no need for extended outros, extra vocal harmonies or glockenspiel. Each song is lean and as if has been put on a treadmill, burning the excess flab of them.

The quirky and acerbic lyrics that you associate with Land Lovers are still present and correct. Moratorium morbidly recounts a tale of meeting a building contractor where the protagonists died the night before. Angeline is a poignant lament on romantic crushes.

The biting lyrics act as a counter balance to the generally uplifting music. Crowd Of Lungs and Life Of Crime best typify the buoyant music that gleefully bounces about. Modern Pentathlon is the closest thing to freaking out that you’ll find on a Land Lovers song.

‘The Rooks Have Returned’ doesn’t break any new boundaries, but that’s irrelevant in terms of Land Lovers. It is marginally less poppier than 2011’s ‘Confidants’ but it has instead gained a maturity and depth. ‘The Rooks Have Returned’ is another confident step forward for Land Lovers.

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