Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My Sad Captains and other Fortuna Pop stories

A month ago at the Buffalo Bar, My Sad Captains didn’t impress immediately. They played a little too long, perhaps; certainly all songs sounded like the band had only ever heard Pavement in their lives, apart from the welcome relief of a couple of poppier numbers, which indicated that they were familiar with Sloan, Canada’s foremost Pavement fans.

The flicker of potential there was, however, was enough to entice me to RoTa recently where they raised the roof with an inspired collection of songs that revealed an ambition to match the American bands they’re in debt to.

The literate college rock card was still played, but a wider scope of influence captured Grandaddy’s pastoral panoramas and Wilco’s wistful laments, and always in the background somewhere you could hear small pieces of magic recalling any warm, familiar gem from the sweet sound of the first four Byrds albums.

With the standard guitar set-up augmented by samples and a violin’s tipsy reels, MSC revealed themselves as a band to match the more expansive American leftfield sounds of acts like Flaming Lips and Sparklehorse. A single arrives on Fortuna Pop! in May, followed by an album later in the year.

This signing confirms Fortuna Pop! as one of the UK’s premier operators. The new Butterflies of Love album, Famous Problems, overcomes the production issues that perhaps hindered their previous effort, 2002’s The New Patient, by recording songs quickly and largely self-producing them.

I’ve lived with the album since last September, when Jeff Greene was kind enough to make me a copy after being even kinder to cook me dinner in his Brooklyn studio (a fine space itself, covered with artworks made by prisoners and the mentally ill, including Daniel Johnston’s decorated lyrics for I Save Cigarette Butts) and it still sounds on every play, after all this time, like a great lost classic from 1967 that the listener has excitably unearthed.

The Airport Girl album’s no bad thing either, revealing the band as something far more than the classy jangle act they’d previously shown themselves to be. Taking its cues from Aztec Camera’s breezy charm and The Go-Betweens’ lovelorn melodies, Slow Light is, in a little over half an hour, brighter and richer and fuller than most albums.

With albums expected from My Sad Captains and Dan Greene’s (of the Butterflies) side project, The Mountain Movers, later this year, Fortuna Pop! threatens to hog the discerning listeners’ end-of-year lists come December.

If only they’d kept hold of Fanfarlo, whose post FP single, You Are One of the Few Outsiders Who Really Understands Us, ticks all the right boxes, including that crucial one “doesn’t sound anything like Coldplay” because there was a little hint of that in their debut, then that would have assured FP owned 2007.

But Fanfarlo are on a different trajectory of success now. They have the same management as the Sugababes, you know. And, odder still perhaps, David Bowie is a fan:

Fanfarlo - You Are One of the Few Outsiders Who Really Understands Us
“This is Fanfarlo's second single, the follow up to the superb Talking Backwards. There's a touch of Guillemots about this, and while I'm not sure where they're from, it's a very English sounding record. Imaginative instrumentation here too. It's great to see so many new bands moving away from the standard rock line-up...not that that doesn't still work, it's just nice to hear the sonic depth expanded a bit.
I've heard four or five of Fanfarlo's songs now, and, like a few of my other favourites, they have that particular knack of being able to create uplifting music that's blessed with a delicious melancholia at the same time. If you get a chance, check out the animated video for You Are One of the Few Outsiders Who Really Understands Us, made by the Fanfarlo's guitarist, Mark West. Now, why didn't I think of getting band members to do other stuff...could have saved a fortune. I'm sure you'll be hearing a lot more of Fanfarlo.”

Butterflies of Love’s England tour starts tonight, for those of you who fancy Chelmsford:
Mar 28 The Bassment, Chelmsford
Mar 29 Buffalo Bar, London
Mar 30 The Cherry Tree, Steventon (nr Oxford)
Mar 31 The Rising Sun Arts Centre, Reading
Apr 3 The Grapes, Sheffield
Apr 4 The Packhorse, Leeds
Apr 5 The Cluny, Newcastle
Apr 6 The Social, Nottingham
Apr 7 The Louisiana, Bristol
Apr 8 The 100 Club, London

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