Archives for posts with tag: Belle and Sebastian
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The Prophet Hens – photo by Phoebe Lysbeth K http://www.phoebelysbethk.com/

Day 4 of the 31 Days of may Madness for New Zealand Music Month 2017 is another Dunedin tune, this time dialing up some jangling melancholia by The Prophet Hens. Here, from their 2nd album “The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys”, is “Good Shadow”

“Good Shadow” is an enigmatic song, apparently about nothing more complicated than, well, the writer/ narrator’s shadow. But it is saturated with metaphorical weight and the pay off line -“don’t let me down” seems to be sung more in resigned hope than confident direction.

As a noun “shadow” in its most direct meaning is a dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface. But it can also refer to proximity, ominous oppressiveness, or sadness and gloom. There are a lot of shadows of both kinds in Dunedin.

I’m always going on about the (oppressive) shadow cast by the past of Dunedin’s fabled 1980s music era over the current era of musicians. Unusually for a contemporary Dunedin band, The Prophet Hens wear their local influences on their sleeves (or wings) so they would probably regard it as a… “Good Shadow”!

The song (along with half the album it is from) features the wonderful voice of Penelope Esplin. She also plays the old Casiotone given to her as a child by her father which gives the song (and the album) it’s colourful fairground wheeze. Penelope’s voice can also be heard with French For Rabbits and her own duo Grawlixes, along with The Prophet Hens’ bassist Robin Cederman.

[Note: Music released on the label I run isn’t usually featured on PopLib because PopLib is more about helping with the discovery of other mostly underground/ under-known/ under-appreciated bands and musicians. I’ll be making an exception during this, the 4th year of NZ Music Month daily posts on PopLib. As over 160 great NZ songs have been released on the label over the past 11 years it seems a bit unfair to omit them from consideration. These are after all some of my favourite local bands creating some of my favourite music.]

not-unloved-1If you thought Courtney Barnett’s “Avant Gardener” was the best song to be written about gardens and gardening, it has now been surpassed by the B-side of a 7″ single by Glasgow’s Vital Idles called simply “The Garden”.

If you wanted to be picky you could say that this song is not strictly about gardening as such… “Would you feel uncomfortable if we did it in the garden, with your bum facing the clean air, and the wind in your hair?”

But it does mention in loving sensory detail the features of the garden and the work that has gone into creating this setting for this fantasized al fresco relationship.

“The Garden” is the B-side (or double A-side) of the Vital Idles 7″ single released on brand new Glasgow label Not Unloved Records.  The label is a natural extension of the long-running Not Unloved blog, so named after the title of a Pastels song from their “Truckload of Trouble” album.

There’s certainly a bit of the spirit of The Pastels about this song, but also perhaps a bit of Belle & Sebastian in the wry observational lyrics and delivery – though headed in a somewhat more deviant direction than your average early B & S song.

This is not much like the earlier Vital Idles releases I’ve heard, which were enthusiastically lo-fi cassette releases with “Demo” in the title. Lovely amateurish things but a bit rough around the edges and unfinished sounding, however radiating oodles of potential because of that enthusiasm, spirit and character.

This sounds perfectly finished. The production standards have increased and it’s a glorious thing to hear this band presented in a clear and unfussy way, their character in full bloom now.

As “The Garden” and it’s risque narrative unfolds in rich detail, the pace quickens, the intensity swells, the strings and brass rising and falling like that bum in the clean air, before the post-climax outro of soothing instrumentation. As beautiful as a well-tended garden.

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