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Snapshots #3 - Norfolk & Rider, Early Day Miners, Whip, Last Harbour, Pernice Brothers, The Blasco Ballroom

Snapshots #3

Norfolk & Rider, Early Day Miners, Whip, Last Harbour, Pernice Brothers, The Blasco Ballroom

A few 7"s to start things off: first, the new Norfolk & Rider project, or the meeting on a split single of Adam Selzer from Norfolk & Western and Mark Wyman from Shoes & Rider. The concept of this record is that Mark and Adam wrote one song each and then swapped them and brought their own touches to the other's creation. These are two subtle performances, in which Norfolk & Western's folk is embellished with a sweet layer of electronic music, while Shoes & Rider's nice pop is brought to the fore by Adam Selzer's restrained production -- with a few notes of guitar,  mandolin, and cymbals in the background. Belgium's Zeal Records have had the good idea to release a single by Early Day Miners to hold us over until their next album. And we can but thank them for turning up these two sweets and unveiling them to us: on side A, a superb track of light and slow pop music, and on side B, an instrumental much closer to the sound of Ativin, and which could very well have appeared on their "German Water" album. Out on Zeal Records again, here's a 7" you should get your hands on urgently: Whip, a band we'd never heard before around here, whose songs make us feel as though we were listening to the early Palace and Songs: Ohia records for the first time again. With such an arid voice and such melancholic tracks, we can but sink deep into these microgrooves. We don't know much about Last Harbour, apart from this single we found by chance on the excellent French mailorder Méridians and the fact that they'll have an album out soon. But as from the very first notes of "Past", a sumptuous mix of Lambchop's "Jack's Tulip" and Arab Strap's "Philophobia", we're on familiar ground with people who share our immoderate passion for musical spleen-venting. The other three tracks on the single confirm our feeling that Last Harbour deals in dark melodious beauty. After a two-year escapade (which gave birth to the sublime Chappaquiddick project and the last-minute rescue of old Scud Mountain Boys songs), Joe Pernice is back with his family as his poppiest band: the Pernice Brothers. Never had Joe's melodies been so cheerful, catchy, and direct, but of course what makes this record a new gem is the Bostonian's maddeningly suave voice, placed very much upfront as usual and once more taking the songs to the top. "Film" by The Blasco Ballroom -- France's Frédéric Blasco's project, backed up by members of Sparklehorse and Cracker as well as Lauren Hoffman -- is typically an album that you need to listen to a few dozen times before really letting the songs transport you. Upon first listen, unavoidably one thinks of early Tindersticks (their subtlety, their deep, tired, hungover voices) but also Neil Hannon's "Liberation" for its orchestrated but not pompous side. Later on, these references fade away and off we drift on the dandyesque charm that emanates from these ten marvels.

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