Model Village - You Chose These Woes (***)
Miniature model building and penning bright and tuneful alt-pop: two pastimes in which a delicate touch is a valuable asset. On their second album, Cambridge’s Model Village show a knack for the complex art of keeping things simple, with straightforward melodies that merrily dance their way into the memory banks and measured arrangements that ensure the songwriting its breathing space.
With a trio of accomplished vocalists taking turns at lead, Fleetwood Mac circa Rumours are an acknowledged influence – and certainly, there’s a hint of Don’t Stop to Jaguar’s opening chords. But despite some nice AOR touches (for instance, the guitar solo that tails 19, or the soaring chorus of closing ballad No Personal Touch), You Chose These Woes sits closer in style to indie acts like Edinburgh’s Aberfeldy or Melbourne’s The Lucksmiths, with the outlying gothic folk of Oh My Sisters indicating the full variety of which they’re apparently capable.
Father Murphy - Pain Is On Our Side Now (***)
Tackled individually, the four movements that make up Father Murphy’s latest EP are formidably severe: an atonal collection of clanging semi-rhythms, draining drones and ghastly wails; elements found throughout the Italian trio’s enigmatic oeuvre but here taken to extremes.
Yet these tracks are split across two single-sided 10”s for a reason, and once paired up and played simultaneously, the pieces slide into place like a Cenobite puzzle box, revealing new dynamics. The first coupling, for instance, sutures the hellish braying of side one to the chopped gabbles and screams of side two, each infernal component amplifying the other’s effect. The conceptual cleaving may render Pain is On Our Side Now a fans-only curio, but members of said sect will be suitably bewitched.
Lacrosse - Are You Thinking of Me Every Minute of Every Day? (**)
It’s been almost five years since Stockholm sextet Lacrosse last released an album, yet Are You Thinking of Me… demonstrates a Peter Pan-like refusal (or perhaps inability) to grow up. Their brand of earnest indie-pop remains overbearingly cutesy – in the same ballpark as acts like I’m From Barcelona, but extra-sugared – with any significant deviations from 2009’s Bandages for the Heart mostly for the worse.
The best tracks are the most straightforward: the slow-swell build of If Summer Ends favourably recalls fellow Swedes Shout Out Louds; I Told You So (Didn’t I?) instils its happy-go-lucky pop with just the right dose of peppiness; and Don’t Be Scared has a nicely uplifting, we’re-all-in-this-together vibe courtesy of unified boy/girl vocals and a rousing, string-backed refrain. But elsewhere things get saccharine (see: the break-up wibbling of The Key), while tracks like 50% of Your Love try something different but sound uncomfortable, diminishing Lacrosse’s chirpy charms.