Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Perfect English Weather - Isobar Blues

Pop music is a big tent, with many genres.  We all have music we like, and music of which we are less fond.  Sometimes, the deciding factor is, as least in part, the genre.  But I think the most important factor is connection.  Does the message mean something to me?  Can I relate to the protagonist in the story?  Can I interpret my life through the events in the song?  Does the arrangement send chills down my spine?  One band that has provided me with that connection over the years is Brighton's The Popguns.  And happily I can use the present tense because the band released an album two years ago, and an EP last year, after resting a few decades following their mid-'90s albums.  We don't have another album from The Popguns yet (apparently, there will be one soon), but we do have something similar.  Well, similar and different.  We have the Pickles.

Specifically, we have The Popguns' mainstays, and husband and wife, Simon and Wendy Pickles recording as The Perfect English Weather.  Their opening statement is Isobar Blues, which has just been released by Matinee Recordings.  The album contains all of the melody and hooks one expects from Simon and Wendy, with what seems to my ears a bit more intimacy, with the dreamy elements more subtly expressed and the arrangements slightly dialed back and streamlined.  The songs are mostly uptempo guitar pop, but a few ballads nestle in the mix like those wonderful little packages one always enjoys finding under the Christmas Tree in late December.  And over the years, Wendy's voice remains one of the treasures of pop music.

Every pop fan who hears this album will choose favorites -- mine include "The Sweetest Feeling", "Hit Town (A.T.H.E.N.S.)", "Spirited Away", "Christmas Single (Call Me)", and "You Wrote".  But circling back to our opening theme, the magic here is in the connection.  The Pickles' songs of scenes from their lives, in cafes, record stores, connecting with old friends, a missed concert in Athens, and so on, connect with me to a rare degree.  It isn't that they are stories of my life, but listening to them I feel included in their lives, and it is a comfortable and special feeling.

Make room for Isobar Blues, it is one of the year's indie pop gems.

Matinee Recordings page for album

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