Released to widespread acclaim in the U.K. in August 2010, Edwyn Collins’s Losing Sleep finally receives distribution stateside, and the album marks a welcome return from one of indie rock’s most charismatic performers. The challenge Collins faced with Losing Sleep was in keeping his trademark, freewheeling snark intact while acknowledging the series of illnesses that both inspired the record and nearly claimed his life. But Collins doesn’t get bogged down in meditations on his own mortality; instead, he’s written a set of hook-filled pop songs that allow him to approach his serious, weighty topics from side angles.
From his tenure as frontman of the band Orange Juice through his successful solo career, Collins has demonstrated an expert’s ear for sweeping melodies that shuffle and change direction in unexpected ways, and that gift is on full display here. The chord progression on “Come Tomorrow, Come Today” lifts the melody in tandem with Collins’s message of guarded optimism, while the jagged, angular arrangement on “Bored” makes it clear how much of an influence his style has had on contemporary U.K. rock acts.
To that end, Collins has enlisted a fine lineup of collaborators to ensure that Losing Sleep sounds modern. The Drums co-wrote “In Your Eyes,” while Ryan Jarman of the Cribs turns up on “I Still Believe in You” and the standout “What Is My Role,” on which Collins references the lingering effects of the stroke he suffered in 2005. The most natural-sounding collaboration comes from Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy of Franz Ferdinand, who bring a bit of their band’s swaggering 4/4 stomp to “Do It Again.” Rather than making Collins sound as though he’s trying to play catch-up to what the current generation of indie-rock kids are doing, the co-writes and duets on the album simply come across as a logical progression of the kind of retro-minded, catchy rock that Collins has been writing and performing over the course of his career.