While Herd Runners builds on the qualities Aldred has always been attracted to – bold, traditional storytelling and sentimental arrangements – it feels less urgent than the records that came before it.Thirst For Romance and Beneath This Burning Shoreline raced in with exuberance, but 'Clear Skies Ever Closer' channels its romanticism thinly, opening flushed in smooth guitar riffs and quick string motifs. It's a wonderfully loose song, culminating in a bridge in which Aldred tumbles gleefully down to sweltering trumpet and platitudes about love. Nothing has changed about the way Aldred writes songs, or the way in which he can revitalise the queasiest musical clichés, but the ease with which he does it is evident in Herd Runners.
Herd Runners is unlikely to make waves: it's too delicate a record, showing off what Aldred can do with Being There-influenced guitar twang (appearing on 'Sacramento' and 'Drinking for Two') instead of the bold, sombre tones of Beneath This Burning Shoreline (which could've veered into Starsailor territory if taken further: maybe it's for the best). This feels like an attempt by Aldred to make his songs as gentle as they are grand, evident in his most vulnerable vocal performance to date. Cherry Ghost didn't make good on the pop potential of 'People Help The People', and haven't fared well as an "indie rock" band – Aldred's voice is too mature for that, and his musical vocabulary makes his songs anachronistic. It's sadly fitting: Herd Runners is another excellent record by a disastrously underrated songwriter who doesn't believe in love, but doesn't get enough of it either. There's only so long he can wait.
“Clear Skies Ever Closer” sees the album jump into life with a blissful lilt. A luxurious production drapes itself around the track, and the expansive strings and propulsive brass make for an opulent and vociferous start to the album.
There’s a crafted, yet unforced quality to these songs. No more so than on the heart rending album highlight “Sacramento”. ‘‘Sacramento’s half the city since you took that job two states away/I count the days as I wait these tables trying to save the fare to come and stay’’, is a beautiful and wonderfully economical opening couplet to set the scene of a boy scraping together enough money to go after the girl. The track showcases the refined elegance of Aldred’s song writing, and “Sacramento” as well as the timeless “Drinking for Two”, like a great many of the songs in his back catalogue, sounds like an old standard, plucked from the dusty vaults of musical history. It’s certainly one of his best, and like numerous tracks on the LP, it plays with a glossy melancholia; a dark edge to the lush, string augmented tracks can be found in the lyrics, in these tales of downtrodden souls in pursuit of an elusive salvation.
(The Line Of Best Fit)