Week 68

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Language of Flowers

Songs about you

Shelflife Records

 

The first thing you should do if you ever come across this album is to skip directly to the fifth song and wait for three minutes and three seconds. By the end of that period of time two things should have happened: one, you should have fallen in love with Language of Flowers; two, you should have a pretty clear idea of what 'Songs about you' is about.

"Getting over you was the hardest thing I ever had to do" sings Tara Simpson at the beggining of said song ('Who you're with), just so that you can tell straight away: this is the sort of record where a girl sings about boys and broken hearts. And if that description brings back memories of Amelia Fletcher (or Amanda Aldervall or Mary Wyer) that make your eyes moist with tears and your heart beat faster, and you somehow happen not to own a copy of 'Songs about you', do yourself a favour: stop reading now and go out and buy it. This will make 2004 a better year for you.

If, however, you are too young or too cool or too silly, or just too something for this sort of thing to happen to you, you may keep reading, though you have been warned: I will try to convince you to do the same thing in the long run anyway. Because a certain Heavenly-charm isn't the only thing there is to Language of Flowers: there are bouncy songs and catchy lyrics and cool guitars reminiscent of a time when both me and the band were too young. There are words about grey skies (or maybe just the feeling about them) and things to dream of and about things you love and things you lost, and about those things that are yet to be loved (and won or lost.) And there's a certain style too: a half-innocent, half-cool way of being in a band, a way of saying "this is who we are, we sort of hope you like it."

And then there's my favourite thing about Language of Flowers too: a sort of underlying energy, a half-hidden excitment packed in and behind the songs and the way they are played which shows itself only through repeated listening of 'Songs about you.' It makes each listening a little bit better than the previous one (but only a little, so that you can play it again and again); it catches up on you like an echo when you least expect it and has you bouncing and/or singing along to 'If it's not you' or swooning and/or laughing at 'Tara Mascara' ("I'm only waiting on a lover with a catchy surname/ It just takes patience and an ear for what sounds right") when you thought you had hardly noticed them. It's the sort of thing that, coupled with a certain poetic-ness in the way these songs have been concinved and materialised (or with the trumpet in 'Songs about you') can have you sighing and smiling at the same time.

Really, a rightly-placed trumpet can break my heart on any given day, but even so, believe me when I say: 'Songs about you' is something to have and to hold.

Dimitra Daisy
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Frankie Machine

Re-unmelt my heart

Artists Against Success

 

There is something about the sound of a chord change along the neck of a guitar which gets me everytime. It is incomprehensively soothing, like the background hum from a record player or the hollow ticking of a clock.

Thirty seconds into 'Re-Unmelt My Heart', an album which could also probably be best described as incomprehensively soothing, and my ears met that beloved sound. I was gone. Sunk deep into the fragile sounds of an acoustic guitar, whirling noises, and a gentle voice from a man on the edge.

‘Re-Unmelt My Heart’ is the third album from Frankie Machine (M J Hibbet and the Validators, and too many other bands to mention). The album weaves a beauty with sorrow seamlessly. Each note is like a tiny sparkling bubble: beautiful, rainbow coloured but ready to burst at any second. It gently twists and turns and with lines like

"The only friend I have left
Still resents me leaving"

You are not sure whether to laugh or cry. It’s vulnerability is charming. It locks you into a dreamlike spell and refuses to let you go until you submit. Why would you want to escape anyway?

Rachel Queen
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Saturday Looks Good To Me

Every night

Polyvinyl

 

Some bands are lauded for their (so-called) originality, and some for the impeccable taste of their influences. What is sometimes lost in this distinction is the underlying common factor of all great bands - namely that they simply write great songs.

With this in mind, the obvious temptation to avoid falling into when reviewing this album, perhaps more than any other I've ever heard, is to let it become simply a list of influences (spotting which would still be a marvelously geeky parlour-game!). BUT: why one should avoid this, is because it doesn't take long to be hit by the much-stronger impression that, although yes, most songs here are hybrids of mostly '60's sounds, the songs themselves add up to far far more than a sum of the stolen bits and pieces. A case in point is the lovely summery 'Lift me up', which is at the same time probably the most blatant Supremes rip-off you're likely to hear, and yet absolutely gorgeous and breezy in its own right. Of course, the fact that Fred Thomas actually writes somewhat more thought-provoking and almost literary lyrics than Holland-Dozier-Holland (not to diss the latter!) also helps.

In fact, it is when SLGTM stray furthest away from their influences that they sound the weakest. Comparing the almost-Emo demo of 'Dialtone' to the perfect Spector-pop of 'Until the world stops spinning' brings this home. Of course, too, I'm loading the dice here, since the latter is more than likely one of the most perfect pop-songs you'll have heard this year. Not that 'Dialtone' is bad, and even the worryingly angsty bedroom strum of 'When the party's over' evolves into a beautifully generous driving ballad, augmented by strings and clever-clever (but actually clever!) lyrics.

What can be slightly disruptive on a first hearing, however - and this has as much to do with the plethora of both male and female vocalists as with the diversity in styles - is that the album runs the risk of coming over as a compilation rather than an organic hole. But again, if this is a compilation, it is certainly a very choice selection, and again, Thomas' lyrics provide a unifying vision, which is perhaps most touchingly realized in the affectingly lovely closing ballad 'When you got to New York' when he sings: "Give me a reason that I can believe in/ and I will believe in you/ tell me a reason why I should believe/ cause I want to".

Well, after having read so much about me, my first real encounter with SLGTM has - to steal a quote from The Monkees - made a believer out of me!

Johan Hugo
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