Friday, 2 November 2012

reviews: this many boyfriends, brasstronaut, trapped mice

This Many Boyfriends - This Many Boyfriends (***)

This Many Boyfriends’ scrappy-go-lucky debut wears its DNA like so many button badges. It’s in their name, a nod to Beat Happening. It’s in their titles, with Tina Weymouth opening the album and I Don’t Like You (‘Cos You Don’t Like the Pastels) returning from 2010’s Getting A Life With EP. And it’s in their lyrics (boy, is it in their lyrics), stocked with nods to The Go-Betweens, Orange Juice and dozens more indie-pop darlings.

But most of all, it’s in the music itself. Sometimes, the quotations are overt, with Young Lovers Go Pop! sharing more than exclamation marks with You! Me! Dancing!. But their genre-worship is also present in more diffuse form – in the jangling guitar tones, and singer Richard’s insouciant, punk-Morrissey delivery. The results are lightweight but knowingly so – irritatingly so if you’re looking for even the slightest bit of parameter-testing, but wonderfully so if you share their tastes.

Out now

                                                 Brasstronaut – Mean Sun 

Brasstronaut - Mean Sun (***)

As their clunky name indicates, trumpets aren’t just an occasional adornment in Brasstronaut’s songwriting; they’re its heart. Like debut Mt. Chimaera, the Vancouverites’ second album is principally structured around the warm tones of founding hornblower Bryan Davies, whose parping supplies melody to some tracks, texture to others.

Despite the sextet’s punning moniker, this relatively uncommon focus never sounds gimmicky, with Davies’ band mates chipping in mellow bass lines, reverb-heavy guitar, clarinet, synths and more. Their layered contributions ensure Davies’ elevated role isn’t at the expense of balance, though on occasion, smooth assuredness metastasises into a character-free blandness, a complacency that cries out for some kind of maverick intrusion; something bold and daring to ruffle the record’s sophisticated plumage and inject some soul. But allow such dissatisfactions to drift on, and there’s plenty to admire in Mean Sun’s understated urbanity, particularly its bookends: graceful opener Bounce and shivering finale Mixtape.

Out now

Trapped Mice – Winter Sun

Trapped Mice - Winter Sun (***)

Winter Sun starts with An Ending: a two-minute instrumental in which plaintive accordion wheezes over traffic noise and sirens, conjuring an enticing air of mystery. It’s an evocative introduction, demonstrating that even without Ian Tilling’s studiedly poetic lyrics, Trapped Mice spin stories with skill.

For the remainder of the band’s full length debut, Tilling’s passionate vocals are an upfront focal point, and his words prove extremely effective (Hermit Point and The Devil Wandered In in particular; awkward spoken-word piece Cameraman, less so). In terms of audible influences, Okkervil River continue to cast a pronounced shadow over the Edinburgh five-piece; a flattering comparison but one which exposes the occasional thinness of Winter Suns lo-fi production. But while the home-recording perhaps undersells some of their music’s finer qualities, it can’t detract from the overall confidence with which they present themselves, best represented by ambitious centrepiece Quiet Place; a multi-part expedition with considerable impact.

Out 5th November

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