Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: Ski Lodge - Big Heart

From time to time an album comes along that scores high marks on every scale important for guitar pop, and then nonchalantly aces the tests on all the other scales as well. You know, just because it can.  Well, Big Heart from Ski Lodge is such an album.  Big Heart is the work of Andrew Marr.  He wrote all of the songs and played nearly all the instruments on every track.  The one exception was "Just to be Like You", which was recorded with the full band.  If I were to pretend, mostly for the sake of my own journalistic convenience, that Marr studied other bands and could be said to be of a school, then I would offer Orange Juice and The Smiths.  But I don't find those comparisons satisfactory at any real depth.  Certainly the jangle is common among those bands, but the guitar pop of Ski Lodge is, to my ears, more polished and disciplined than the Glasgow gods.  And it is a damn sight poppier than the melancholy Manchester gang.  I think the closest in overall vibe would be the now defunct mid-oughties Austin band Voxtrot, although I think Marr is a more complete songwriter.

Of course, the best approach is to take Marr on his own terms.  Serious and even sad themes are prevalent, but Marr consciously provides upbeat tunes.  An excellent example is the first single, "Just To Be Like You", which deals with a flawed father/son relationship.

While joyous pop arrangements predominate, Ski Lodge slows the pace on a few tracks.  In particular, the title track is a complex, intriguing song that has grown to be among my favorites on the album.  It reveals a side of Marr's songcraft I'd like to see explored in the future.

The second single from the album is the bouncy "Boy", which deals with a suffocating relationship --

With its bright sounds and energetic pace, this album is perfect for the waning days of summer.  But in my view, it would be welcome any time of year.  My suggested tracks, in addition to "Just To Be Like You", "Boy" and "Big Heart", are "I Always Thought" (simply perfection, that one) and "I Can't Tell", which sounds like a track from Pet Sounds.

Big Heart is out today, August 20, via Brooklyn's Dovecote Records.

Dovecote Records

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