Long ago I was really excited to hear that Michael from Northern Portrait was working on a new project, A Novel Resort. But, while that first track was great, things had been rather silent until Jigsaw Records up and broke out the band’s debut EP, Island of Atlas. The songs on this EP dwell in the softer side of indiepop, trickling melodies, calming vocals and lyrics that will run through your head. If this happens to be your style, then you can grab the EP HERE, or just stream and love it below.
This track’s been quickly making its way around the indiepop circles, seeing as it features M from Northern Portrait, one of the genre’s revered current acts. It’s an interesting song from A Novel Resort, wrapping electronics around the stereotypical sound…filling in the gaps with strings and horns. Quite a special moment, though we’re still waiting to hear whether an album will be in the works from the group (rumor says Dufflecoat might make a grab!). Anyways, a pretty good song for you to enjoy while you’re sitting at your desk.
Reading over these pages I’ve written about Northern Portrait too many times to count, and as long as music keeps coming my way, I’ll keep that up. I was really excited over the weekend when Matinee Recordings announced they’d be putting together a compilation album of the band’s sold out Eps, singles, and rarities; it’s titled Ta!. A lot of these I wasn’t able to get my hands on, so I’m happy that I’ll have some way to hold onto such great tunes. Fortunately for you, this might be your introduction to the band, which will make you revisit everything the band has accomplished to date.
It’s been almost three entire years since we’ve heard anything new from Northern Portrait, but this four song affair will make us forgive the gap between releases, as this is some of the most accomplished music the band has crafted to date. The Pretty Decent Swimmers EP may only be a short little stop gap until a full-length comes our way, but fans old and new will surely find solace in the well-manicured pop of these Danes.
It’s early in the year, but you’re going to have to try real hard to find such a splendid piece of pop musical openings for the rest of the year. There’s a casual entrance, building the listener’s internal tension, and then unleashing enchanting bliss at the 36 second mark. You can sing along to the chorus of “Happy Nice Day,” aided by the perfect vocal control of singer Stefan, which never hurts the audiences ability to attach themselves to the music.
“Greetings From Paris” is an eternally satisfying track, full of literary allusions and a ringing guitar line that infects any pop lovers soul. It’d be easy to take Stefan Larsen’s voice and make Morrissey comparisons, but this song demonstrates the softer quality of the vocals, stripped of the over-bearing sexuality. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for monosyllabic lyrics sung in repetition like the “la la la las” that close out this little gem.
If you were wondering if Northern Portrait was going to pick up a little bit of the energy, then wait until you get to “Bon Voyage.” The cutting guitar lines are extremely sharp, which provides a natural bit of pacing to the song…almost a dance floor shuffle. But, like other pop classicists, The Lodger, there’s a bit of restraint, focusing instead on the harmony within the tune rather than force you to stomp your feet. Closing out the song is a soaring bit of vocal melody and a tinkering it of piano…you don’t get better than that.
And it all comes to a grand close with the longest track, “I Feel Even Better.” Larsen here seems to express a bit of solemnity, if only in the way he delivers his vocals. Sure, the lyrics guide one to think there’s a bit of a reawakening, but you can hear the distant pain that the narrator had to live with at one point. For me, the attached arrangements present in the background reinforce the pristine sound of twanging guitars that seek out your heart. A perfect bookend to the whole listening experience.
If you aim to be frustrated about anything on Pretty Decent Swimmers then you’re going to find difficulty in that search. There’s not a single misstep or faltering moment, but rather a complete collection of four songs exemplifying pop writing at its very finest. Cheers to you Northern Portrait: and welcome back!
Pretty Decent Swimmers is available now from Matinee Recordings.
Finally, the wait is over! After two years, the triumphant return of Northern Portrait is upon us. Just one listen to this new single and I guarantee you’ll be foaming at the mouth with anticipation. The song casually opens, with a faint beat in the background and a jingling tambourine…and then we’re off at the 35 second mark. From that moment on, my body tingled with the pleasure of listening to perfectly crafted indie pop that’s hard to match. It’s looking like 2013 is going to be a great year for the band, starting with the Pretty Decent Swimmers EP, which is a 10″ being put out by our dear friends at Matinee Recordings. Yep, I’m in love.
When I first got a press release of Champagne Riot, I expected that one of the participating members of Northern Portrait would bring me more hooks of the angular sort. Not surprisingly, the Moonstruck EP definitely has plenty of hooks on it, but with a more delicate electronic bend, as opposed to my preconceived power-pop sort.
“Moonstruck” begins the affair with a nice little intro, but then this pounding rhythmic groove jumps in, as electronic beats seem to walk across the track. Caspar Bock’s voice have this gentle quality that really bring the song together, and while you’re tempted to kick your boots up on the dance floor, there’s a bit of a steadying effect to the song. Regardless, it kicks off the four-song trek joyfully.
You’ll find a bit more of traditional electronic-pop on “Goldrush.” Every beat here is a bit more subdued than on the opener, which opens way for this soaring harmonic vocal that really seems to carry the entire track. This track reminds me of the innocent joy I had as a young kid, when I first busted out New Order‘s Republic, before I worked backwards through the catalogue. Perhaps my favorite element of this song is its straightforward presentation; its not trying to be clever or witty, just wants to be a great track, which it is.
“Heart Stab” is possibly the one track here that just gets to sweet for my ears. In the mix with a full album, you could probably slide it in nicely, but perhaps too much of a good thing can be bad. It sounds really familiar too, and perhaps that’s why this song sort of irks me, due to the fact that I can’t place it! Still, there’s a bit of a twisted element in the lyrics, which sort of makes you wonder where Champagne Riot could truly go if they had time to craft an entire record of such music.
Your short journey with the Moonstruck EP ends with “A Friend of a Friend.” You’ll find that this song holds the future for Champagne Riot, as electronic elements are definitely present here, but piano/keyboard touches occasionally dominate the beats themselves, not to mention that the vocal delivery has this soothing quality. You’ll find somewhat of an operatic montage moment in the latter half of the track, demonstrating that the duo are capable of pushing themselves in regards to their entire sound. By the end of your journey, you can’t help but to wear a smile. The tunes are written well, the melodies are great and sometimes we just need to let loose and enjoy this sort of fun.
You can pick it up at the Matinee Recordings Store.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/1Moonstruck.mp3]
Download: Champagne Riot -Moonstruck [MP3]
If you know me, you probably know that I think Matinee Recordings is one of the top 2 indie labels (the other being Captured Tracks), and they’ve got me excited all over again. They’ve just put out the newest work from Champagne Riot, which features the bassists of neat-pop group Northern Portrait. The four song collection is titled the Moonstruck EP. The lead track “Moonstruck” definitely has more of an electric feel than a great deal of the work on Matinee, but what’s present, as a label standard it seems, is infectious hooks and melodies, making you want to go back and spin the song over and over. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, or this great duo.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/1Moonstruck.mp3]
Download: Champagne Riot -Moonstruck [MP3]
The wonderful thing about being brand loyal, especially when it refers to record labels, is that you are usually guaranteed to like one thing, if you like the rest of the label’s output. Such is the case with Matinee Records, the label that put out Cats on Fire (one of my 09 must haves). Now, through their web site, I discovered another gem, by the name of Northern Portrait. The group is from Denmark, and they write jangle pop, some might even call it twee. Whatever it is, it’s good. You’ll like it.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/10-New-Favourite-Moment.mp3]
Download: Northern Portrait – New Favourite Moment [MP3]