Santa Barbara album cover
Santa Barbara

The High Llamas

1992
JBM

An expanded version of The High Llamas debut mini-album, Apricots, Santa Barbara was originally released only in France; the V2 label reissued it elsewhere in 1998. On this material, you can hear Sean O’Hagan and his then-new group stumbling their way towards the music they want to make. O’Hagan’s previous solo album (which was named High Llamas) had him singing clear, simple pop-rock songs, much like Alex Chilton’s ‘80s material; the Santa Barbara sessions build in more complexity, but they’re still of a piece with that kind of folksy, everyday troubadour sound. O’Hagan’s melodic nous is ever-present, though, and the rich harmonies point towards his love of The Beach Boys, something that would blossom soon enough.

Jon Dale

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