Gruff Rhys might be better known as the frontman of brilliant and barmy Welsh psych-folk veterans Super Furry Animals but he is also growing quite the reputation as a solo artist. Excitingly, his third record, named after and inspired by his unfortunate habit of hoarding mini shampoo bottles and other complimentary hotel products whilst on tour, might just be his best yet.
Quintessentially Gruff Rhys, Hotel Shampoo opens with the kaleidoscopic Shark Ridden Waters, which sets the tone for the rest of the album, as a perky melody bounces along while the Welshman delivers a whimsical vocal. Next, Honey All Over cleverly contrasts a downbeat tale of failed love with plinky-plonky instrumentation and a gentle, catchy chorus. “Cos maybe she dug you/But she never loved you,” he sings softly. Spirits are lifted by Sensations in the Dark, a mariachi romp through brass, while, elsewhere, there is a cute duet with El Perro Del Mar and also subject-matter which deals with heavyweight issues such as eco politics and inequality. Of course, it’s all done in the typically leftfield way that you would expect from one of the creative forces behind Super Furry Animals, as faint touches of electronica mix with plenty of folky elements, some underplayed experimentation and lyrics that are equally fanciful and emotive.
Gruff Rhys' voice is as warm and unique as ever, as Hotel Shampoo manages offer many diverse, interesting elements while still being coherent and sounding like an album rather than a collection of songs. By the time strings soar through At The Heart Of Love at the back end of proceedings, you should have long-since fallen in love with this charming record.