For over 25 years British band, Tindersticks, have evaded easy categorization. On The Waiting Game they are equally elusive. The group has incorporated elements of chamber pop, folk, indie rock, and even soul music into this new release, and they do it all with such a languid, lush hypnotism that you forget just how smart and calculated their choices are. The group has changed sound and personnel over the years, but their commitment to hushed instrumentation and dreamy tones have become even more pronounced on The Waiting Game.
The light hi-hat and horns on “Second Chance Man” are expertly timed to coincide with the song’s most dramatic moments, but unlike similar bands, Tindersticks is reluctant to let these moments explode into bombast. Right as “Second Chance Man” seems ready to burst, it quickly recedes and crescendos downward. Similarly, “Help Yourself” relies on hypnotic repetition punctuated with quick horn blasts and choked guitar.
“Hey Lucinda” is simply gorgeous, as singer Stuart Staples’ baritone engages with guest vocalist Jehnny Beth of Savages in a give-and-take dialogue in which Staples suggests “time is running out” while Beth seems to imply that perhaps it already has. On the deeply moving “How We Entered” Staples engages in some stream-of-consciousness talk-singing that recalls latter-period Leonard Cohen.
The rest of the album is occasionally too ponderous, and the instrumentals seem unnecessary, but The Waiting Game has plenty of brilliant moments to assure its place as one of the winter’s most ambitious and assured albums.