"Handsome Train", I read on Little Pad Mail Order "sound quite like the Lucksmiths."
"Hey," said my friend at the record shop, "this is just like Morrissey!"
"...and just like Belle and Sebastian..." says Tommy of Heavenly Pop Hits when introducing them.
"I don't know" said Nick. "They sound indiepop to me."
And yet when I first heard them, I only thought of Hefner.
So who are these Handsome Train people?
Well - they are John, Marten, Sara and Linnea, they come from Halmstad, Sweden, and to me, they sound quite like themselves.
That's not to say John's way of singing is not similar to Morrissey's, that the use of flute, piano and melodica to create a rich sound doesn't bring Tigermilk to mind, or that their untidy melodies aren't similar to the Lucksmiths' ones. It's just to say that they use (use -not mix) these elements in a unique, inspired, personal way. A way that talks about them more than it talks about anything else; a way that makes me want to meet them, because it makes me think they're great.
They first appeared on the Heavenly Pop Hits compilation Hit Music Only with a beautiful song called September. Pop is their first release and it's pretty long for a single -three songs on the first side, two on the second. Every song on it has its share of magical charm that will reveal itself to you if only you look closely. Pop (strangely enough) sounds like a hymn to pop to me; Everyone Says Hi I love because it features Linnea and John taking turns to sing; Riot Girls and In This Time sound like they're about being true to yourself. But I think it's I Want You To Know -a charming melody that sounds like a love song even though it says "I want you to know that I won't be around even if you change your mind"- that is the best one. It sums up all I love in Handsome Train.
Handsome Train make ingenious music: sweet, passionate, exciting, slightly strange - strange enough to make you wonder where it comes from - music to fall in love with. Believe me. They tell stories about the usual things in unusual ways and they sound like they really put themselves in what they do - but they do so in an unpretentious, effortless way. As if really putting yourself into what you do is the most natural thing in the world.
And maybe it is. As they sing - "In this time/ everyone's a liar/ they're so scared of being true/ but not you/ no, not you."