Sunday, 8 April 2012

reviews: moonface, tom williams & the boat, the cornshed sisters

Moonface - With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery

Moonface - With Sinaii: Heartbreaking Bravery (****)

Initially, Moonface seemed to possess its own niche in Spencer Krug’s ever-proliferating portfolio: single-track debut Dreamland offering up “marimba and shit-drums” in its sub-title and contents, while follow-up Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped was, as hinted, almost wholly keys-based. Neither Ronseal-monikered, nor premised on select instrumentation, the third Moonface release breaks this nascent pattern, though its title nonetheless sets some pretty accurate parameters: lyrically, Heartbreaking Bravery sees Krug in part sorrowful, part defiant moods.

“All the stars are dying” he croons through Yesterday’s Fire’s glum-glam Bowie-isms, while elsewhere darker tales stalk (“There was blood, there was gore… There was some ugly shit in store” goes Headed for the Door). While the lyrics are all Krug’s own, the music is a collaboration with Finnish act Siinai, and their slow-burn style nicely counterpoints their temporary band leader’s more baroque tendencies, resulting in some of Krug’s most satisfyingly direct material to date.

Out 16th April

Tom Williams & The Boat – Teenage Blood

Tom Williams & the Boat - Teenage Blood (***)

Tom Williams & The Boat’s second album was funded by fans via Pledge Music, allowing the Tunbridge Wells-troubadour to retain full artistic control. Not that this freedom has led to any unexpected diversions from the mainstream-friendly aesthetic favoured on debut Too Slow. In fact, Williams is refreshingly honest about his artistic endeavours, naming Tom Petty, Teenage Fanclub and Loaded-era Velvet Underground amongst this record’s key influences, boldly brandishing a passion for classic song-writing craft.

Less exalted comparisons might be drawn with fellow ‘someone-and-the-aquatics’ nu-folkies Noah and the Whale, though there’s a lyrical grit to Williams’ work (“I need a dream and a lie that’ll hit my like a big wave… oh, put me in a neckbrace”) that keeps him a step ahead of their pleasant, but ever-diminishing returns. Teenage Blood proves Williams a gifted student of the radio-ready pop-rock genre, with the title track especially efficient at infiltrating the subconscious.

Out 16th April

The Cornshed Sisters - Tell Tales

The Cornshed Sisters - Tell Tales (***)

Sisters in the sorority rather than sibling sense, Jennie, Cath, Liz and Marie take turns to sing lead on debut album Tell Tales, and though the sparse instrumentation (piano, acoustic guitar, ukes) leaves little room to hide, all four are blessed with equally fine pipes. But then so are Wilson Phillips (you know, them from the end of Bridesmaids); harmonies alone won’t curry favour, no matter how impeccably pitched or honey-sweet.

Luckily, The Cornshed Sisters draw inspiration from more respectable sources, with a Colin Meloy-esque turn of phrase (“young man woe betide” and so forth) and a fine line in homespun folk influences. Tragic a-capella tale Tommy balances these constituents just right, whereas Ocelot Song doesn’t: beautiful, but in a cloying ‘Disney heroine crooning to her (ocelot?) sidekick of all the adventures she yearns to have’ way (aye, that old chestnut). Overall, their elegance and sincerity sells it, but only just.

Out 9th April

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