Originally a low-key release last year, the third LP from US trio The Crystal Furs now gets a wider vinyl distribution in the UK.
From the opening tones of the Farfisa organ on ‘Comeback Girls’ the lo-fi indiepop shines through, with jangly guitars, unassuming instrumental breaks and a naturalistic production that puts the Furs right there in the room with you. The band sound is also encapsulated in the minor epic of ‘Expo 67’, opening with the strangely inviting line ‘…we built a home of concrete bones…’, full of melancholy in the verses before the catchy chorus. Lead vocalist Steph Buchanan keeps herself carefully placed in the mix, making the band sound as one cohesive entity.
‘Too Kind To Be Cruel’ is a compact pop song with a yearning melody and some well-honed rhymes ‘…write the things you’ll say to me …engaging in so much hyperbole…‘, while ‘Burn Us Down’ rocks hard; ‘….you wanna cure me, you wanna fix me I wanna kick you to the curb…’ and is probably my favourite on the album.
Over the twelve tracks (and an extra set of mono remixes on the digital album!) The Crystal Furs clearly sound like they are having fun in their music, as summarised in the final track ‘Second Time Around’, ‘…..join a band and play guitar… and play it loud it isn’t hard…‘ This is a lyrically dense album too, full of themes, ideas, reflections and social comment and not afraid to give these carefully crafted songs the time to breathe and develop.
With their first LP since ‘Healing Centre’ in 2015, Model Village storm the citadel of sharp but polite pop on this ten song collection.
The distinctive guitar introduction of opener ‘Insufferable’ and immediate lyrical touchstones, ‘….drinking Pinot Noir….embracing failure….what will we do?…’ show that the Village are back with a bang. Lead singer Lily sounds optimistic yet full of regret while the rest of the band add harmonies and a complex musical backing. ‘Oslo’ is a likeable up-tempo jaunt that transposes the action of a relationship to Scandinavia to add to the feeling of uncertainty ‘…..if I dare to speak the language I’d be lost in translation… ‘. It creates an atmosphere a bit like an arthouse film where not much happens, but there is still a winning resolution in the final reel ‘….you know I’ll be coming back for you today…’.
‘Roll It Over’ is driven by the strong melody to give another pacey song with many musical nuances and a dominant vocal performance. A surprise middle-eight makes a welcome appearance near the end. The momentum continues with ‘Otters’, a light, jazzy and summery confection featuring an enigmatic title, imagery and trademark retro electric piano.
A highlight for me is ‘Roles’ – I am very partial to this type of slow blues track and this is a fine example. Over the six minutes there is loads of time to develop the lyrical ideas, ‘….are you smoking to impress me cause that would just depress me my dear…’. Instrumentally the band have a great time, with plenty going on around the guitar arpeggios including a demented solo, roving basslines and the drums only just staying restrained. I like the way that extra syllables are pushed into the main melody to keep up an atmosphere of doubt ‘….its not that easy to throw yourself into a role that you don’t believe in…’.
The band continue to move through different genres and styles; on ‘Sunburn’ a long experimental introduction evolves into a pensive and thoughtful song, ‘Popular Band’ is a wry self-referential resume of the band’s 12 year career while the hypnotic ‘Variety Box’ is another take on the blues and showcases the best vocal performance on the album.
The album closes with the big ballad ‘Miseryguts’, as the strong melody is boosted by extravagant 70s Carpenters style backing vocals. There is more too, on a very satisfying mix of timeless indie-pop from this artful Cambridge-based collective.