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.
Paul Goodwin (“Cambridge’s premier pedlar of melodic melancholia“) started the show at the Blue Moon, threading carefully constructed words across an amiable acoustic guitar. It was a similar set to when I saw him earlier this year at the Corner House, again it was reassuring but never too comfortable, nicely punctuated by personal anecdote.
It was the first visit to Cambridge by Owl and Mouse, a five sometimes four-piece London band fronted by the vocal talent of Hannah Botting from Brisbane. ‘Keep Your Eyes Open Wide’ is a strong opener, with a stately but simple keyboard line driving the song and underlining the plaintive voice. With an instrumental line-up of many possibilities (including ukulele and violin) they featured tracks from their 2015 album ‘Departures’ and unrecorded material too. It seemed a very short set, leaving a very genial and mellow feeling in the intimate surroundings of this welcoming venue.
Model Village released their ‘Healing Centre’ album just over a year ago, and they play many of the best tracks such as ‘Junction 30’ and ‘Time To Share’, (but I missed ‘Stop The Clocks’, a gorgeous waltzing ballad). With confident musicianship, including lots of neat guitar and bass twists and the matchless vocal prowess of Lily Somerville they are an impressive act. I especially like some of the jazz chords and stylings almost hidden away in some of the songs, successfully blended with the indie-pop jangly sounds, these contrasts reflecting the lyrical content which can be unexpected.
Three excellent performers and all for the princely sum of £4 (and advertised on a poster with a guinea pig on a skateboard??)
A strong line-up at the Portland Arms again, first on stage was Emma Kupa; last seen fronting indie-edgy trio Mammoth Penguins she was giving a live debut to solo material, some from the mini-album ‘Home Cinema’. As a six-piece band, the acoustic guitar and banjo lends a country-rock styling to these tales of regret and longing. Emma has a distinctive voice, relaxed and affecting and as in her other band the musical balance allows it to guide the emotion of the song, shown to full effect in ‘Half-Sister’ and the catchy melody of ‘Consequences’.
‘Anti-folk’ performer Jeffrey Lewis plays guitar, sings, rants, raps, draws, paints, loops and tells stories and histories. Opening song ‘I Got Lost’ is a simple but heartbreaking acoustic delight, giving way to the political rant of ‘WWPRD’. ‘Support Tours’ is a neat wry summary of the position many bands find themselves in.
There was so much variety in this show; the epic eight minute ‘Back To Manhattan’ then the history of Vietnam narrated by Jeffrey as he leafed through his densely drawn comic book and a stealthy bass line kept it all moving. ‘Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror’ is an intense nightmare train journey with never ending lyric, ‘The Single Thing I Love Most About England’ (..is the food!) is an affectionate tribute and ‘Mosquito Mass-Murderist’ is a cautionary tale….
There was a cover of the Wave Pictures song ‘Too Many Questions’ then ‘Scowling Crackhead Ian’ and ‘Sad Screaming Old Man’ were unnerving characters featured on ‘Manhattan’, the latest album release.
And much, much more. Spot-on contributions from bass and drums kept the music sparking off the words through the whole of this memorable show.
(Quoted from a bbc.co.uk article: Lewis himself does not mind the ‘antifolk’ tag: “I think it’s a cool title. The fact that no one knows what it means, including me, makes it kind of mysterious and more interesting than saying that you’re a singer/songwriter or that you play indie rock..”)
Good to see another show at The Blue Moon, lined with sofas and Christmas lights, it was like your lounge at home but with better entertainment and beer. It was to celebrate two bands releasing their albums on the same day, Cambridge favourites Model Village and first on stage London quartet Chorusgirl.
Silvia Wersing is the songwriter, singer and rhythm guitarist of this stunning indie pop band, sounding like a jangly version of the Cure, B-52s and Talking Heads with one of the sharpest bass sounds I have heard live for a while. Opening with ‘No Moon’ (‘ice and ammonia, never been lonelier’ ), the vocals skate over ultra-tight backing. That was good but then ‘Dream On, Baby Blue’ was even better, that bass again and a catchy chorus. More deft tracks from the album, then a bit of a change with their Velvet Underground style cover of Bill Callahan’s ‘Ex-Con’ and then a strong finish with the urgent riff and soaring chorus of ‘This Town Kills’.
The album is ‘Chorusgirl’, they sound even better live, highly recommended..
There seems to be a band in Cambridge filling every musical niche and it feels good to be invited into the melodic dreamy rock of Model Village. With a six-piece lineup featuring 2 guitars, bass, organ, electric ukelele and guest drummer, ‘Red Chair’ is a low key opener that immediately shows the flexibility of the collective. There are varied instrumental touches and the smooth vocals of main singer Lily Somerville, also well showcased in ‘Sunlight’, the first of the songs from the new album ‘Healing Centre’ (‘a name taken from one of Cambridge’s most joyless-looking buildings’). The vocal duelling and overlapping in ‘Back Together’ is another strength as is the Steely Dan jazz feel of ‘Family Restaurant’ and ‘Sorry’. ‘Time To Share’ ended the set, an insistent rhythmic figure through the song all the way to a noisy finish.
Available as vinyl, download and cassette(!), give it a listen, this excellent new album is a grower.
An evening of Summer Indie-pop at the Portland opened appropriately with Cambridge based trio The Centimes. They have a distinctive original sound as I have said in previous reviews and the long instrumental introduction to opener ‘Stormy Tuesday’ laid down the template of solid drumming and bass with that stylish 12-string guitar jangling above. ‘La La Land’ showcased a bit of funk guitar and ‘I’m Fine’ and ‘Local Pool’ impressed as usual with strong vocal performances. The venue had filled up rapidly during the set and the band were well received. I look forward to the debut album, with some extra input spice added by The Organ Grinders Monkey..
Next on were the six members of Model Village, an Indie Folk band I had last seen at The Junction as support for Half Man Half Biscuit, not the most likely combination?! On that occasion there was more of an acoustic feel but they have a varying line-up and last night it was mainly electric guitar with excellent piano contributions and some welcome short bursts of harmonica. They also have the options that three different lead singers give and the musical styles vary greatly, from the up tempo opening song ‘Splitting The Risk’ to the mellow ‘Stockholm’ and the emotive ‘Red Chair’. It was a confident and enjoyable performance setting the tone for the headliners..
Allo Darlin’ are a London-based four piece formed in 2010, fronted by Elizabeth Morris. They play catchy guitar based Indie-pop, with involving lyrics drawing on human relationship dilemmas, cultural references (‘Woody Allen’, unfortunately omitted tonight) and reminiscences of Australia. It was generally an up-beat summer sound but listen to the lyrics carefully, there is plenty of darkness and light. The sound quality and instrumental playing were top-notch, like the Smiths with ukulele added to give an extra dimension of rhythm. There were two great interplay songs between male and female vocals, ‘Bright Eyes’ and the exquisite oldie ‘Dreaming’, three and a bit minutes of pop perfection…
The long set was engaging and varied, tracks from the forthcoming album ‘We Come From the Same Place’ to be released in October 2014 slotted in nicely with the more familiar songs. The band seemed very pleased to hear the audience singing along and there was a clever encore, ‘Kiss Your Lips’ segueing into the Paul Simon song ‘You Can Call Me Al’ (including that fast bass run..). It was a great show and from speaking to the band afterwards, the friendly onstage personas are all genuine!