With every new British rock group that comes creeping across the sea, they’re brandished with buzz like ‘England’s answer to The Strokes,’ or some other nonsense like that. And, with every Franz Ferdinand that shows up at Ellis Island, the disappointment just seems to mount and mount.
But, Art Brut was always a bit different.
When their debut full length Bang Bang Rock & Roll hit the streets a few years back—both stateside and across the pond—they were slathered with buzz that they actually deserved. Their trademark brand of edgy Britrock, infused with wicked witty lyricisms and a love-it-or-hate-it thick English accent, shot them to the top of the pack as they loaded up on fans left and right. Flash forward two years after Bang Bang Rock & Roll hit the UK record store shelves, and Art Brut are poised and ready for their triumphant return to making LPs. I’m not even going to make a joke about a potential sophomore slump, seeing as Arctic Monkeys broke the import curse this year with Favourite Worst Nightmare, and left the door wide open for Art Brut to come strolling through with their ample charm.
To be honest, It’s A Bit Complicated isn’t really all that complicated. It’s rather simple, actually. First you rock, and rock it British style. Then, toss in lyrics that are reminiscent of a British version of Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo when he’s at the top of his game. The most standout single on this album full of single-worthy tunes is the woo-hoo rocker “Direct Hit,” followed closely by album opener “Pump Up The Volume,” and the jaunty “Blame It On The Trains.”
It’s my observation that Art Brut is at the forefront of a recent revival in British indie rock (yes, I know that phrase gets tossed around every few years, and I’m trying to use it lightly), led by acts such as the aforementioned Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, and the extremely overexposed Amy Winehouse, to name a few. Kudos to Art Brut, as they’ve finally given Brit’s a truly worthy answer to Manhattan’s Julian Casablancas & co., and in the process made an album that actually manages to improve upon an already awesome debut.
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.