September 14, 2006

It's Better If On Matinee: Three EP's of Distinction

For years now, the nameMatinee Recordings has become synonymous with intelligent, enjoyable and slightly melancholy indie-pop. They've also developed a reputation for releasing excellent EP's, and over the past few months, they've released three superb records, and it's simply time we told you about them. Cheers, as always, to Jimmy Tassos, for having the keen sense to release such wonderful records!

Like the best artists, The Lucksmiths can always be counted on when it comes to delivering a satisfying platter of beautiful, melancholy pop, and their latest EP, A Hiccup In Your Happiness, is no exception, as Tali White and company capture the sturm und drang of being a sensitive, intelligent, literate lover. "A Hiccup in your Happiness" is, of course, taken from their recent hit album, Warmer Corners. Like all other Lucksmiths EPs, the three extra songs aren't mere leftovers. Nope, these three numbers are all choice cuts, as White and company prove quite well. "From Macaulay Station" is a sad acoustic number, with White's voice ringing out from a minimal, acoustic guitar arrangement. "Rue Something" is only slightly more aggressive; it has a gentle lounge-act feel to it, with a nice, enjoyable arrangement. "To Absent Votes" is also quite mellow, but slightly more country-ish than the previous songs. White's singing here is lovely and romantic, as he recalls the hours after an election, but adding the heartbreak element that he does so well, making for a slightly unique political song! Of course, it's all par for the course with these fellows, and even though the EP came out back in the winter, it's gorgeous enough and pretty enough for Fall listening!

Lovejoy's new EP, England Made Me, takes me back to my college days, where I'd spend Friday and Saturday nights driving around the city, listening to Pet Shop Boys records and often winding up at a coffee shop or a bookstore. (No nightclubs for me--spare me, please.) The four songs on here kind of have a Trembling Blue Stars meets Tennant & Lowe feel to them that I really, really enjoy. In fact, "Are You Analogue or Digital?" sounds remarkably like one of Chris Lowe's fine B-sides like "Paninaro," "One of the Crowd," or "The Sound of the Atom Splitting." But comparisons to Pet Shop Boys aside, Lovejoy's pop style is quite impressive. Richard Preece's songwriting has grown tremendously over the past few years, and this is easily their best release to date. Plus, I just love his singining voice: it's very emotional, yet detached; his songs are cold, yet warm and reassuring. "Brightness Falls" has a gentle beat and Preece's singing simply exudes coolness. "In the Rain" is gentle dance-pop, and it's also a fine cover of a June Brides classic. But the winner here is "Made in England;" it's an epic as well as an epic beauty. It's hard not to be stunned by it, with its sad melody and pulsing drum beat. He's lamenting England, and he hints at missing something lost in the shuffle of modern society. This is simply a wonderful little release that hints at artistic maturity, and it sounds good on the stereo when you're driving to the bookstore on a Friday night.

Harper Lee is back, folks. Keris Howard and company have had a lot of people fawning over this little EP, and rightly so. It seems only right that a friend and collaborator of Bob Wratten's would carry on the Field Mice/Trembling Blue Stars legacy. And man, He Holds a Flame is such a wonderful, wonderful song. It reminds me a lot of those wonderful bands. Appearing here in two versions (regular and extended), this song should have a place on your upcoming autumn mix CD's for your Myspace crush. The other three songs are good, and they all hold true to Howard's synth and guitar style, but man! It's really hard to beat that title track. It's a weeper—sort of—and it's very romantic; it's a letter to a woman that the protagonist realizes he cannot have, yet he refuses to burn that bridge. "I know you care for him times ten/But if you ever feel it's through/Remember, I'm still in love with you" is downright sad in its fatal, hopeless optimism. How could any other song on any other record with a song like that even compare? It can't. It's a shame, too, but I had to make myself not listen to those two songs, because I had to move on to the rest of the material. Those other three songs are really nice and are really gorgeous, especially "William Blake." It reminds me, in a strange way, of The Great Gatsby, with Gatsby standing out at night, looking across the harbor and watching the flashing light, calling him and reminding him of the impossible love that is just barely out of his grasps. The lyrics are very forlorn, not unlike that tragic story, and the faint beeping in the song entices you in the same way that flashing green light enticed Gatsby. The other two songs, "I Could Be Wrong" and "Rest Your Weary Head," are good, but they do pale slightly underneath the other three songs on the EP. Oh well, that's okay. Oh, and this is one of the best records of 200, and it makes me wonder how great the next Harper Lee album will be. Essential? Pretty close.


grillermo said...

im confused, the band "black box recorder" released an album also called england made me, ¿what's up with this?
Does it have some kind of connection, are those the same?

joseph kyle said...

i wouldn't say that there's a connection, but author Graham Greene wrote a wonderful book in the 1920s entitled "England Made Me." the title was also used for the fine 1990 solo album by Cath Carroll.