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The Prophet Hens return for a second album. The Wonderful Shapes Of Back Door Keys delivers on the tuneful jangly promise of their debut album Popular People Do Popular People*

US music blog The Finest Kiss described their popular debut as “Chills meets Belle And Sebastian pop alchemy” before saying “The Prophet Hens may be better than both” and making it their no. 2 album of 2013. It was a bold call from a respected indie-pop authority, but the band’s new album gives that claim a sharp nudge.

Ringing the changes on this latest effort is the addition of bassist Robin Cederman’s adventurous songwriting, on which keyboard player Penelope Esplin takes lead vocals. Her voice, the strong melodies, and richly detailed, dramatic storylines are sometimes reminiscent of an Antipodean Neko Case.

Robin’s songs complement Karl Bray’s minor-key pop numbers, which manage to be both melancholic and exuberant at the same time. Their teasing guitar intros along with jangling chord progressions woven through swirling fairground keyboards and reflective lyrics indicate he’s as much in thrall to the chiming guitar of classic UK jangle-pop and early REM as to any local Dunedin forebears.

The Prophet Hens may have formed as the result of an accident but the “pop alchemy” progress on their second album leaves nothing to chance.

* Popular People Do Popular People is also being issued on a very limited LP pressing by Fishrider, Occultation & Naïve Melody at the same time. You can buy both together at a reduced price and with a postage saving on either vinyl or CD.