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At the risk of serving up a spoiler three months in advance, King Creosote and Jon Hopkins' Diamond Mine is going to turn up near the top of many Best Albums of 2011 lists on this website. The breathless love isn't unanimous across the NPR Music staff, but it's widespread and intense, and rightfully so. For all its brevity — just seven songs in 32 minutes — Diamond Mine is an absolutely spectacular record, as plainspoken and charming as it is breathtaking in its cinematic sweep.
It's also got some mystery going for it — Scottish singer King Creosote, a.k.a. Kenny Anderson, is prolific but little-known in the U.S., while English producer and multi-instrumentalist Jon Hopkins is better known for his room-filling electronic works — as further evidenced by packaging that never shows either of their faces. So watching these two unassuming, modestly dressed guys re-create Diamond Mine's beauty from just a few feet away can be jarring, especially to those who've spun the record, say, dozens of times in recent months.
To immerse yourself in Diamond Mine is to be transported to a small, calm town in the Scottish countryside: For all of Anderson's reflective ruminations on aging and regret, he and Hopkins know how to make listeners feel at peace; to make the faraway seem everyday. Standing in the NPR Music offices, they somehow lose little of their mystique. Once they've led listeners through two of Diamond Mine's highlights — "John Taylor's Month Away" and "Bubble" — it's easy to follow them wherever they're going next. (On the night of this performance, a bunch of us from NPR Music road-tripped to a coffee shop in Vienna, Va., just to hear them perform these songs again.) That they follow the Diamond Mine songs with two more of Anderson's divine compositions is just a bonus.
Right after their performance, King Creosote and John Hopkins spoke with Weekend Edition Sunday host Audie Cornish about the genesis of their collaboration. Click the audio link at left to hear the interview.