Friday, December 24, 2010

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2010: Number 8

Standard Fare play jangly guitars, feature untutored vocals and have a set of lyrics about thwarted or hopeful love in songs some of which could fall apart if prodded hard enough. That in itself is comfortably enough to pigeonhole them among the faux-naif ranks of the indiepop semi-revivalists, but these are no underachievers or ambitionless makeweights. Even if on paper it’s all been covered long before there seems something fresh and exciting about the way they go about it, with complete knowledge of highly infectious hooks and a purely melodic pop heart that overshadows any pragmatic ideas of uninvention.

The key is the sense of longing in the midst of the kinetic energy produced by a trio who’ve put a lot of practice into sounding like they’re just hanging on to each other for dear life without turning into a (Baby)shambles. It’s driven and exemplified by the vocals of Emma Kupa. Her vocal style is as bittersweetly defiant as the lyrical content, seemingly straining to hit the notes but, as demonstrated on opener Love Doesn’t Just Stop, capable of really hitting home once getting there. On Philadelphia she’s reduced to a fragile state by an overseas lover before coming out with a swaggering brusqueness in the chorus despite admitting she’ll “have to wait a year to see you again”, something which finds a mid-point in the dreaming wistfulness (“there comes a time we have to choose between what we desire and what we’re prepared to lose”) of ‘Married’. Allied to that is the occasional co-vocal of guitarist Danny How, either complementing or vying against Kupa, jibing against and across each other on Nuit Avec Une Amie against a Housemartins/Lemonheads forceful jangle. Much of this emotional directness is played out to an Orange Juice-like nimble indie dancefloor ready jerkiness able to draw magic from uncomplicated interplay and observations made from areas long raked over by others. When Kupa discusses her one night stand of “only fifteen, what was I thinking lying in your bed?”, she tries to come to terms with how she ended up in that state of desperation even if she sounds somehow trying to over-convince us throughout before admitting "you're just too damn attractive". And then there’s the gloriously perfect guitar pop of Dancing, built on a skeletal guitar line and conflicted emotions – “do you remember you gave me another try, I knew better then to ask why” - that give way into a chorus that suggests “there’s always gonna come a time when we don’t know the answers, always gonna come a time when we should just go dancing”. The yearning triumph of the heart’s will of Wow (“this could really lead somewhere”) completes a journey of great immediacy, character and interest, as excellent an invocation as you’ll find of the qualities of good honest, ultimately likeable guitar pop. Indie as it used to be, so long broken down by the landfill but here taking its inspirations and crafting something that stands up for itself without having to suggest allowances.



The full list

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