I’m not exactly sure why I like this album. All I know is from the moment I put it on, it had me charmed. I wanted to say it ticks all the lo-fi, twee sounds, perfected by bands associated with Sarah Records, Postcard Records and Flying Nun, but I don’t think any boxes were involved. There wasn’t even a form. Something in the muted, unpolished nature of the songs recalls the DIY ethos of earlier acts while making the approach sound impossibly fresh after all this time.
A large part of the appeal is how tentative the whole album feels. Vocals rise just above a whisper; guitar melodies are composed of hesitant runs; the drums are tapped just enough to count time. Little of the sound imposes itself, even when the occasional effects pedal is stepped on. The tentativeness emphasises both the melancholy and the sweetness – or bonds them more strongly – so the apparent innocence comes hand in hand with a sense of resignation, or the wisdom born of resignation.
This quality is evident in the very first song “Ferris Wheel”. Singer Rhiannon repeats the deceptively simple line “A ferris wheel takes you up in the air” a few times to which Irina and Nicol respond “And you’re down on the ground again”. As a description of a journey on this fairground attraction, you couldn’t find a more succinct account. And yet, it could stand in for any number of life experiences. What adds to the charm and rescues this song from being in any way preachy is the interplay between Rhiannon’s deadpan delivery followed by Irina and Nicol’s joyous refrain. Or the song is just about a ride on Ferris wheel and I’m reading too much into it.
“Ferris Wheel” is one of eight songs (from an album of 13) which clock in around or under two minutes. In an age of musical bloat, I admire this commitment to brevity. “Sea Air” is a little over a minute and doesn’t feel for a second that anything is missing. The slightly longer “Hang Up” sweetly captures the anxiety of telephone conversation partly through wordplay. The imperative to end a call is also another name for the anxiety. Again I could be overanalysing this (I probably am overanalysing this) but it’s amusing to think that saying “Hang up” to a socially awkward person may give them pause to think, “Don’t you think I know what I’m suffering from?”
Not all the songs are quick sketches. “Cardinals” is beautiful, chiming song about a morning of watching ducks and waiting for parents to arrive. The music shimmers and soothes, suggesting that the sun mentioned in the lyrics is gentle and bright, something which can be stared at. Similarly to “Ferris Wheel”, the lyrics manage to imbue a simple scene with greater emotion – in this case the longing and baggage a child has for their parents.
Or maybe I’m just overanalzsing it.