When I was first this track I did a double take; wasn’t this quirky, upbeat pop number from Nottingham was released two years ago? It turns out I was right – after releasing ‘Glockenspiel Songs’ with an indie and performing on E4 teen drama Skins, Dog is Dead signed to Atlantic Records and after a few more singles, are releasing what is arguably their signature number – and what a number it is, although if Dog is Dead achieve the popularity destined for them, their choral chant “We are a mess, we are failures and we love it” might no longer ring so true! Jump on board saxophone-heavy summery indie pop fans and I promise you won’t regret it.
Alberta Cross are what happens when you put a Swedish man and an English man (ahem, don’t wait for the punchline, this is a ‘serious review’) together and plonk them in Brooklyn, New York. The results aren’t actually an extreme as one would expect or hope. Magnolia is a soaring light rock song, complete with a Northern nineties soul type orchestra singing about the ‘morning sun’. The press release describes the track as a ‘melodic sprawl’, but I don’t actually think it’s that heavy on melody. There’s some fun to be had with the big drums and, of course, there’s the novelty of the nice choir too – but that only adds to the MOR derivative feel of the whole piece. It’s competent, but not worthy of the stadium status the production style yearns for.
In ‘Skeletons’, Alexander Wolfe is singing about a girl. With references to bones (multiple) and amphetamines, plus the fact that Wolfe insists ‘she’s always on my mind’, it’s a rather sad affair, accompanied with a morosely, delicate acoustic guitar and piano. Although it’s a beautiful, contemplative composition, the enigmatic lyrics (available underneath the You Tube video I watched) make my imagination run wild with questions; is she dead? Is she the girl from Ed Sheeran’s the A-Team? Is she actually alive but shunned by the big bad Wolfe? I’m not sure, but I think after a few listens, the song and the mystery might just stay with me.
In the first few bars of Best Friend, I thought ‘Best Coast’. Then the chorus effect laden vocals and reverb heavy tambourines came in and I thought ‘Best Coast! Dum Dum Girls! Warpaint! All mixed into one like a bright-yet-indescribably-bleak mash-up!’ This is the stuff of uber cool girlbands who once played their guitars on US dramas such as the OC (I miss you, OC) and Buffy. Luckily I like girl bands and I like bleak, so this song would sit happily on my iPod – although at five minutes, the pace plods somewhat and I’m pretty sure that Miyaki ‘won’t let me down’ after the first three.
James Canty leads this intense, acoustic riot of shrieking strings and lo-fi vocals. Rather than escape the ‘rat race’, it seems that Canty rather enjoys the pressures of bustling city life; ‘Hand to the hammer ’til you bend or break, but oh my God, I can hardly wait’. The vicious cello makes the whole affair sound like an instrumentalist going postal at a barn dance – which is by no means a bad thing! Canty enjoys getting dark and dirty with the best of them and I’d quite like to join him…
Recorded mere months ago DIY-style in a shed, Church School is basics at its best – simple, multi-layered acoustic fare with lovely good-natured lyrics (“With a head full of bravado and a belly full of marmite”), twee references to Belle & Sebastian and endearing boy/girl harmonies. One for people who love Broadcast 2000 and those who still haven’t forgiven Jay Jay Pistolet abandoning his own twee acoustic ditties to front The Vaccines.
Words: Frankie Ward