Tag Archive | "Fika Recordings"

Owl & Mouse – Departures

Tags: ,

Owl & Mouse – Departures

Posted on 15 July 2015 by Joe

One of the standout tracks on Fika Recordings superb free advent calendar give away of songs in the build up to Christmas 2011 was Sandwich Day by Owl & Mouse. This beautiful song perfectly encapsulated the lazy, cosy feel of a relaxed Christmas, thanks to the vocals of the band’s lead songwriter Hannah Botting. She’s a future star of indiepop but perhaps is yet to realise it.

owlandmouselp_front

A reasonable point of reference for Owl & Mouse, which also features Hannah’s sister Jen, Dan Mayfield and Emma Winston (Enderby’s Room) and Tom Wade (We Aeronauts), is Allo Darlin’. It’s a comparison Botting clearly dislikes, saying while “very flattering” it is “not very accurate in my opinion”. But with her soft Australian vocals and the predominance of ukulele it is a likeness that serves a useful purpose. If you love Allo Darlin’, whose bassist Bill Botting is Hannah’s brother, then you are likely to find a lot to like in Owl & Mouse.

As a debut album The Fika Recordings released Departures gives a good account of the band and shows the indie pop buying public what an asset to the genre Botting is as a vocalist and lyricist.

Production wise there’s a really strong start with Keep Your Eyes Open Wide, which features some lovely synth work from Winston that perfectly matches Botting’s vocals. Winston and Botting’s combination is a real strength in the band that is exploited well here.

There are other strengths too. The combined vocals of the band, especially the baritone of Wade work really well. Sick of Love is another strong track, with guitar added to the mix and the vocal arrangement on Misfits is wonderful.

There are trumpets too, which are used well on the album’s title track, and the sad love song Canvas Bag, which emerges as perhaps the album’s best track. Guitar from Paul Rains, of Allo Darlin’ helps this song.

But the album doesn’t always play to these strengths and it seems to fall back into the band’s comfort zone at times. Too often the ukulele is at the fore, at times unfairly muscling out Winston’s wonderful keyboards.

There is a need for a slight, intimate sound. Botting sounds like she’s confiding with the listener so the bombast of heavy electric guitars and pounding drums may seem out of place. But the focus on ukulele feels a little too comfortable and unambitious at times. This is a band that sounds like they have outgrown the ukulele but can’t give it up, like an early teen with a childhood teddy bear.

Take Octopi. The trumpets here sound great, but Winston struggles for attention over those bloody ukuleles. This also happens on Worst Kiss, which sounds like a demo of what could be a great song.

As a fan, reviewer and listener I’d like to see more ambitious production with far more synths, more vocal interplay and far less ukuleles. Until they truly find their voice, play to their strengths more and ditch those bloomin’ ukes those unwelcome comparisons with Allo Darlin’ are likely to continue.

7/10

by Joe Lepper

Share

Comments (0)

The Smittens – Love Record Breaker

Tags: ,

The Smittens – Love Record Breaker

Posted on 20 August 2014 by Joe

Vermont indie popsters The Smitten’s last album, 2012’s Believe Me, left me exasperated. It was good indie pop, but utterly lacking in originality and leaving them sounding like yet another Magnetic Fields wannabe band.

artworks-000082013839-bz94ud-t500x500

What a difference a couple of years has made. Somewhere since then they have discovered an edge and thankfully their bubblegum pop has burst.

So what’s changed? They have an expanded line up now featuring Missy Bly on vocals. Her voice has clearly influenced the sound and it appears the band’s direction as well. Another change is for singer Dana Kaplan, who is undertaking gender realignment, making this the band’s last album to feature his pre-testerone female voice.

It may be that these two events, of a new member and a new gender, are nothing to do with the change in sound. Maybe they’d just got bored of twee pop. But whatever the reason it’s great to hear this band wake up from their generic indie pop slumber even if it actually starts a little too depressingly with the track Upper West Side, that features the repeated line “I don’t want to live at all.”

Next track Pants on Fire settles the album though into a sound that gets the pop and ‘life can be a bit harsh’ balance just right. The vocal arrangements sound great, the reverb 1950s guitar sound wonderful. There will be no dancing at the indie disco to this and its all the better for it. These Days is another where the production here helps create pop with an edge. Meanwhile the title track actually sounds like a credible single and there’s even a cover of the Indigo Girls Closer to Fine.

These Lips is another highlight. With the lyrics “I gotta keep these lips away from you – you better keep your hands from me” it almost goes back to bubble gum pop territory, but just about moves away in time, sounding saucy and actually slightly sinister at times.

It’s a short album, of just seven tracks plus a good remix of These Days but displays a crucial change to The Smittens sound, as if finally after five albums they are at last ready to be a band in their own right. Arguably their most important album to date.

8.5/10

By Joe Lepper

Love Record Breaker is released on Fika Recordings.

Share

Comments (0)

Making Marks – A Thousand Half Truths

Tags: ,

Making Marks – A Thousand Half Truths

Posted on 28 January 2014 by Joe

Making Marks, the Norwegian act that were one of our highlights at 2013’s Indietrack’s festival, are indie pop with a country twist. It’s an effective blend, especially with the sad but beautiful vocals of singers Ola Innset and Nina Bø as well as the country twang of Innset’s picking style of electric guitar playing.

making marks

They’ve been touring across Europe for a while now, picking up admirers along the way and so this debut album feels long overdue. As befitting a band with a sad country lilt and indie pop sense of fun there is a range of emotions on display here, with Ticket Machine and Forgive and Forget providing the happy indie pop and Barcodes bringing a sad, country feel to the fore. The harmonies on Barcodes are particularly striking and Uten En Trad and Like Spinning are others with echoes of the US mid-west that work well.

Falling in Love Again feels a little like a filler track and lacks the spark of many of the others, but this is the only lacklustre one on an album of remarkable consistency.

Flying High Forever closes proceedings and showcases Innset’s best guitar work. As debuts go this is more than solid; it is an enjoyable, fun listen to a talented band that have a clear eye on a US audience as well as the indie-kids of Europe. It is little wonder that we included them in our Top Ten Acts To Watch Out for in 2014 feature.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

A Thousand Half- Truths is released on Fika Recordings on 3 February.

Share

Comments (1)

Victoria and Jacob – Victoria and Jacob

Tags: , ,

Victoria and Jacob – Victoria and Jacob

Posted on 15 August 2013 by Joe

We’ve been left impressed by Victoria and Jacob’s debut album, which  sits somewhere between the savvy pop of Saint Etienne and the cool atmospheric music of Beachhouse.

artworks-000045553713-1f8gtg-crop

The pair, who formed in Cambridge and now live in London, have released this through two of our favourite labels Fika Recordings (who often give out cake recipes and teabags with their releases) and Wiaiwya (who have a fine ear for emerging UK electronica and folk acts). Their debut is full of smart, swooping pop tracks, with Victoria’s vocals wonderfully reminiscent of The Concretes former singer Victoria Bergsman. She gives the whole album a certain European quality with her vocals, especially on the first single and album highlight Festival.

What is perhaps most remarkable for a debut album is its confidence, with a consistency throughout and the sense of a band that is influenced by the likes of Fleeetwood Mac, Everything But the Girl and Saint Etienne but prepared to wrap them up with their own distinct voice. Any duff tracks? Remarkably not one and how many debut albums can you say that about? One of the best debut albums of the year.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

Share

Comments (0)

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here

Charts