ALBUM: The Crystal Furs – ‘Beautiful And True’

Growing up, changing and moving on always involves a certain degree of tension. And for cuddlecore trio The Crystal Furs, a move from the more conservative surroundings of Forth Worth, Texas, to the Pacific Northwest’s alt. capital, Portland, has seen a shift in more than just surroundings. The move led to a change in bassist – Rowan, who has also produced their latest album Beautiful and True. But, for keyboardist Kara and her spouse Steph, it meant the discovery of a new identity, mentally, emotionally and sonically. That’s not to say that the band, whose previous releases included their self-titled Texas debut in 2016, and last year’s sophomore Psuedosweet, have entirely left their old stomping ground behind. Indeed, Fort Worth – known colloquially as the ‘Panther City’ – stalks many of the songs herein.

In many respects, the tracks on Beautiful And True fit largely into the two halves of its title, with roughly half sitting in the observational (and therefore ‘true’ category) and the others odes to the beauty of others, and life itself. That the former are often melancholy, whilst the latter are brimming with optimism, probably tells you where band’s emotions are at. Throughout, the album shimmers with its jangly guitar and sweeping organ, as well as Steph Buchanan’s consummate indie-pop vocal delivery (along with occasional harmonies).  While ‘Comeback Girls’ opens things with a twinkling ballad, ‘Expo ’67’ is arguably the LP’s standout in this respect, with Green-era REM meeting The Breeders at the Montreal World Fair of the title, as its narrator finds that their retro-future dreams have faded from fantasy to grey concrete reality.

‘Pretty Mind’ picks up the ’60s style emotional pop, as an ode to the musical escapes of the small-town outsider. ‘Panther City Pariah’, meanwhile, is, thematically, the grown-up sister song to ‘Pretty Mind’ – finding its outcast narrator finding pride in “finish[ing] last” and “fail[ing] in public” out on the street. Musically, its tight guitar chords and organ melodies give it a pleasingly deconstructed blend of upbeat chamber pop and twee indie-disco. This gradual sonic opening up is continued by ‘Too Kind to be Cruel’, which features the album’s first guitar solo and lyrically inverts the old cliche’s message in an attempt to appeal to a friend’s good side, despite negative pressure from others and the wider world.

Appropriately, the album’s middle point encapsulates the themes at its core. ‘Like You’ has vintage doo-wop rhythms and guitars, mirroring the melancholy subjects of the girl groups from the era, with its lyrical take on the envy of the outsider, observing those considered both “beautiful and true”. ‘Burn Us Down’, meanwhile, is thematically and musically the LP’s true outlier: a bass-heavy garage rocker with stabs of organ. With this in mind, it’s hard to avoid the obvious interpretation that the sound is driven by the anger redolent in its lyrics: “your pocketbook against my personhood” presumably relating to the difficulty of accessing healthcare in the USA, while “you wanna cure me / you wanna fix me…our colours bleed across the land” sounds like a strong reference to the battleground of LGBTQ+ rights in the country.

‘Hey Maxine’ is a handclap-backed plea to someone unfairly treated; ‘Artoria’ is an upbeat lilt with a big chorus, an ode to the famous ‘tattooed lady’ carnival attraction Artoria Gibbons – whose ink now makes her seem less of a ‘freak’ and more of a forerunner; ‘Drag You Away’ is a C86-hued reflection on the horror nightmare of ‘podunk’ towns, replete with a doomy bass breakdown, although whether the zombies of its lyrics are literal or metaphorical is up to the listener to decide.

Penultimate track ‘The Robber Barons of Lombard Street’ is a tale of revenge against gentrification and the co-opting of the rainbow flag by capitalism, with arguably the album’s darkest imagery of “pistol loads” and a “building swallowed by flames” as “two femmes” take revenge.  However, it’s a contrast when it comes to album closer ‘Second Time Around’ – a celebratory hymn to second chances – and the album’s other standout, with its simple instruction to those listening: “Join a band and play guitar”, and make the most of being young, all over again.

To craft one album of three minute pop gems is impressive. To release two in a little over a year borders on compulsive creativity. And to suffer no let up in quality across the course of that time demonstrates that, as my grandmother was found of saying: a change is as good as a rest. It’s something of a well-worn expression, that adult life is about ‘finding oneself’, but it certainly seems for the Buchanans, and their band, that all of the changes in their life have enabled them to do just that. And what they’ve found are winning alt. indie-pop purveyors in the mould of Helen Love. Beautiful And True is an album whose title could not be clearer: it is what it says it is.

Listen to Beautiful And True on Bandcamp now:

 

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

Track Of The Day: Emma Kupa – ‘Nothing At All’

Having been a big fan of Mammoth Penguins for some time now, especially since they delivered a total dream of a set for us at The Finsbury last year, it’s lovely to see that front person Emma Kupa has now announced the release of her debut solo album.

Taken from the album, lead single ‘Nothing At All’ flows with Kupa’s distinctive luscious vocals, oozing a subtle gritty raw emotion, alongside twinkling folk-strewn melodies. Filled with a reflective, heartfelt lyrical storytelling, it’s impossible not to become utterly immersed in the song’s subtle passion that shines through amongst its effervescent uptempo musicality. As it builds with shimmering harmonies, the beauty of multiple voices coming together, uniting, creates a truly heartwarming slice of stirring indie-pop.

Of the track, Emma explains:

The song channels the emotions of being stuck in a relationship which is going nowhere. Frustrating and confusing, you feel lost because you don’t know what you can do about it. In fact, all you can do is nothing and let it move on without you.

It Will Come Easier, the upcoming album from Emma Kupa, is released on 18th September via Fika Recordings (UK) and Palo Santo (USA).

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Photo Credit: Debbie at Wolf James Photography

Track Of The Day: Diet Cig – ‘Who Are You?’

Having been pretty obsessed with their 2017 album Swear I’m Good At This since it came out, the return of Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman – aka Diet Cig – to my ears could not be more welcome. Ahead of the release of their second full-length, Do You Wonder About Me?, next month, the duo have shared a brand new single.

Flowing with Luciano’s luscious honey-sweet vocals, infectious jangly melodies and all the twinkling energy I need now more than ever, ‘Who Are You?’ is a delectably catchy slice of dreamy indie-pop. Juxtaposing an emotion-strewn lilting charm and subtle gritty angst, it’s a shimmering, sunny delight; perfectly uplifting isolation listening, leaving me desperate to hear the album in full as soon as possible.

Of the track, the band explain:

‘Who Are You?’ is for anyone who’s ever received a completely self-serving apology from someone who’s hurt them. I learned that healing doesn’t wait for an ‘I’m sorry’ to appear, and it can feel silly to have one arrive when you’re completely over it. This song takes these bad feelings and turns them into a fun upbeat jam to dance around in your kitchen to!

Do You Wonder About Me?, the upcoming second album from Diet Cig, is set for release 1st May via Frenchkiss Records. Pre-order here. Diet Cig were due to be touring the UK over the next month, but have now re-scheduled their dates to the Autumn (with some dates supported by GIHE faves Charmpit!):

18th November – Rough Trade, Bristol
19th November – The Bodega, Nottingham
20th November – YES, Manchester
22nd November – The Hare and Hounds, Birmingham
23rd November – Broadcast, Glasgow
24th November – Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds
27th November – The Dome, London
28th November – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Track Of The Day: KIN – ‘Sharing Light’

In a whirlwind of a time to be alive, London indie-pop trio KIN bring their listeners a comforting and emotionally atmospheric debut single.

With a remarkable title that brings a glimmer of hope in its meaning, ‘Sharing Light’ instrumentally serves the essence of its name through iridescent guitar tones and graceful vocals. Each element KIN bring to this single seems to dance around another, leaving each its own space to float and be gentle.

A simple setting, next to the water, paints an honest self-reflective moment as Grace’s vocals reflect relatable thoughts. Revolving machine-like drums anchor the whispiness of the dainty mix with a tasty and echoing loop that grounds its stirring feeling.

KIN offer a raw and earnest emotion to the pop template, something that the world is seeking now more than ever in a world of uncertainty. Throughout ‘Sharing Light’, KIN’s emotional burden of worry for tomorrow is continually triumphed by remaining present and serves as a lesson for us all at this time. They beautifully articulate the intricate integrity of human nature and hope throughout this captivating debut, in a way that needs to be felt just at the right time.

Produced by Nicholas Alexander and mastered by Tim Rowkins, ‘Sharing Light‘ is out now.

Jillian Goyeau
@jillybxxn