Tag Archives: Belle and Sebastian

Best Gothic Chamberpop of 2014

Those are some funky pajamas. Is that really what you wear to bed? Sorry, we were just watching you sleep, and we couldn’t help but notice you’re not listening to anything in particular. Might we recommend something perfect for you?

We’re talking about Loom by Fear of Men!

What is chamber pop? It’s more commonly called baroque pop and its eternal kings forever and ever are Belle & Sebastian. They’re great to fall asleep to in your ugly pajamas, too, but sometimes they don’t know when to stop feigning ironic disinterest. Listing Ship, Widowspeak, God Help the Girl, the list of bands that make quality chamber pop goes on and on, but few master the balance between the crisp reality of the waking world and the airy quality of dreams.

That’s what Fear of Men gets so right, and how they get it so right relies on a marriage of talent that recalls that most legendary of British mood generators, The Smiths. The same way perfectly named Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr created broad sonic architectures that contrasted against Morrissey’s viciously precise lyrics, Fear of Men guitarist Daniel Falvey creates optimistic, surprisingly uptempo riffs that contrast with Jessica Weiss’s dour, downtempo lyrics.

The result is a weird synergy that invokes the beautiful dissonance in dreams.

You can’t easily select a single song from Loom to stand above the others – it all runs together so perfectly as one piece.

“Waterfall” (at the very top of this article) is a terrific example, however – it jumps straight in at full speed, Falvey’s guitar blazing ahead while Weiss keeps pace at a despondent meander. Michael Miles on drums and Becky Wilkie on bass fill out the sound as the music builds into a final sonic realization that isn’t a typical fadeaway, but a relaxing crescendo. See? Relaxing crescendo. That doesn’t even exist!

“America” starts off as straightforward baroque pop, but it similarly builds across four-and-a-half minutes into something fuller. And yet, the more instrumentation adds in, the lighter the entire construction becomes.

“Atla” is a beautifully soft two minutes that embraces a wistful paradigm: “If you never leave me, I’ll never understand you. Cause I’ll never know what I could have been without you.”

Relaxing crescendos, orchestrations that lighten as they triple in size, and a final paradox describing in one sentence the difficulty of love. All impossibilities in reality, but Fear of Men exists in a dream. Somehow, they’ve found their way across to us. Impossible. Just like how ugly your pajamas are.

– Cleopatra Parnell & Gabriel Valdez

This article is part of our series on the top 35 albums of 2014. Here’s the list as we unveil it.

Have You Heard… Dum Dum Girls?

Songs of 2014 – “Rimbaud Eyes” & “Lost Boys and Girls Club”

by Amanda Smith & Olivia Smith (no relation)

If Dum Dum Girls make you think of 80s rock, it’s no mistake. Echo pedals and sound walls of thick reverb are abused in the tradition of The Cure. Sharply defined guitar riffs are balanced on top of deliberate bass lines like Siouxsie and the Banshees. Vocals confine themselves to a limited range, taking a cue from Depeche Mode. Intentionally cliche lyrics bounce off terse gothic poetry references reminiscent of The Smiths.

Theirs is outwardly simple pop using complex methods based in Britain’s gloomiest musical period. Their songs don’t take you on a journey. They build a moody, mythic soundscape around the listener instead. They choose being relaxed and focused over being anthemic or epic.

Like a pleasant wine, there are subtler notes: Belle & Sebastian’s ironic harmonies, Pat Benatar’s dancy messaging, Bat for Lashes’ painterly idealism, Joan Jett’s airy insistence. You could call Dum Dum Girls a pastiche of all these influences, but they blend it all into their own, unmistakable creation.

It’s not rave music to pump you up before a game, but it is the music to put on repeat one lazy Sunday or for a long road trip. These are the kinds of songs that make you feel like your surroundings hold more depth and possibility.

Have You Heard… is a stream of song and band recommendations, many of which may be new to you. It’s also the kind of analysis that’s missing in a music industry obsessed with image and celebrity instead of the music itself.