I'm often leery of side projects. Though I like the idea of an artist stepping outside of their normal, well-defined roles in order to create new music, more often than not, the side group never quite lives up to expectations. Such exceptions do exist, but I'm too cold to mention them right now.
Memphis is a side project of a band called Stars. "Who?" you might rightly ask. Stars is pop band led by Torquil Campbell that sounds like the Magnetic Fields. A lot. influenced. Now, we're not making judgment calls on Stars, simply stating what we believe to be true and self-evident. You might be cynically tempted to think, then, that if Stars=a Magnetic Fields-ish band, that Memphis must then be a Future Bible Heroes soundalike band. Or maybe the 6ths? Okay, okay, I really shouldn't be so snide. You can't fault Torquil Campbell for wearing his influences on his shoulder, even if he chooses to parade them blatantly. Truth be told, the man's
Memphis, however, throws out everything that Stars has done, for a more mellow, pleasant experience. Like a day on the beach, Memphis' pop is breezy, sunny, and warm, with a little coolness in the air. Though A Good Day Sailing is less than twenty minutes in length, Campbell and Memphis partner Chris Dumont understand the thrifty value that can be found when you place substance over style. On first listen, I didn't really think A Good Day Sailing was all that short. Each of the five songs on here are unhurried treasures that are light, yet very meaty.
"The Phone Call" starts off with a simple, upbeat guitar lick that sounds unabashedly like Glen Campbell's "Southern Nights." If you're like me, you'll have already fallen in love with Memphis by the time Amy Millan starts to sing. When Torquil Campbell joins in mid-song, you'll swear you're listening to a long-lost Ocean Blue outtake. "My Favorite Game" slows the tempo down, and Memphis are clearly creating music inspired by their love of mid-80s pop music. Simply put, "My Favorite Game" is the best tribute to Wham! I have ever heard. "The Language of Birds" is also a slow little number that would give Christopher Cross a little bit of healthy competition. "06/21/00" picks up the tempo, and continues on a journey through contemporary bossanova pop. Concluding with Everything but the Girl-esque "The Ferry Boy," Memphis explore the beauty of simple, acoustic-guitar based pop.
A Good Day Sailing is the aural equivalent of going sailing on a lovely Saturday afternoon. Full of sunny blue skies, light winds, and cool drinks, Memphis understand the beauty of simplicity, and A Good Day Sailing is simply one of the prettiest records I've heard in a while. Mix up a Manhattan, put some balm on your nose, throw on some shades, put this record on your stereo, and instant beach party!