…where members of our community think back to some of their favourite albums from this past decade and say as many (or few) words about it as they like. This time, laughingstock remembers Frengers by Mew & The Dust Of Retreat by Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s… Take it away LS!
Mew – Frengers (2003)
On paper, Frengers, the band’s international debut, sounds like a disaster: an album consisting mostly of re-recorded songs from their disappointing second album, Half The World Is Watching Me. Fortunately, however, the problem with HTWIWM lay not with the songs themselves, but simply with the sound: it found Mew in limbo, struggling in the space between the shoegazey wash of their debut and their poppier leanings.
And, to be honest, a great deal of credit for the success of Frengers must go to Rich Costey, whose production took the group’s sound and blew it a level of epic proportions. From the deafening opening hit of “Am I Wry? No,” to the menacing, chugging chorus of “Snow Brigade” and the wind-swept, soaringly high bridge of “She Came Home For Christmas,” the band sounds simply massive: a group completely in control, without inhibitions or bashfulness.
And although this is a trademark the band has retained ever since, Frengers remains their strongest album. It is the place where the band trimmed away their excess fat – in the form of the useless thirty-second interludes which continue to plague their albums to this day – and presented us quite simply with an album without a single weak moment: ten excellent songs, catchy enough to be top-40 material, yet, with their constantly-shifting time signatures (“SheSpider” contains a furious guitar solo over a galloping 7/4 section) and, at times, prog-like song structures, strong enough to be intellectually stimulating. It is their most accessible work, and their best.
1. “Am I Wry? No”
3. “Snow Brigade”
5. “Behind the Drapes”
6. “Her Voice Is Beyond Her Years”
7. “Eight Flew Over, One Was Destroyed”
8. “She Came Home for Christmas”
10. “Comforting Sounds”
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Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s – The Dust Of Retreat (2006)
Let’s face it: Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s are hardly a unique-sounding band. For the better part of the decade, the indie-rock scene has been the home of countless folk-rock groups, stuffing their songs not only with guitars and pianos and drums, but also with strings, horns, organs, and whatever other instruments they can lay their hands on. The difference between Margot and most of these other group is that Margot is one of the few bands to get it absolutely right – a fact demonstrated in their glorious debut.
Where many other chamber-pop albums are displays of overwhelming excess, the songs on Dust Of Retreat are expertly arranged, always retaining a full and vibrant sound while never allowing too much to happen at once. And they manage to do this while covering just about every instrument on the planet: violin, slide guitar, trumpet, piano, harpsichord. Not to mention, of course, that the songs are really, really good. “A Sea Chanty Of Sorts” opens the record with an beautiful, understated lyric of a disintegrating relationship before barging straight into the throughly infectious “Skeleton Key.”
And although the most radio-friendly moments (see the obvious single, “Quiet As A Mouse”) are pushed towards the front, many of the album’s best – and most beautiful – moments occur in the second half: the seething “On A Freezing Chicago Street,” the jagged and rocking “Barfight Revolution, Power Violence,” and the hushed, lovely, “Light On A Hill.” It’s an album which reveals more and more detail with every listen, and which has effectively set the bar for chamber-pop.
1. “A Sea Chanty of Sorts”
2. “Skeleton Key”
3. “Vampires in Blue Dresses”
4. “Quiet as a Mouse”
5. “Jen Is Bringin’ the Drugs”
6. “Dress Me Like a Clown”
7. “On a Freezing Chicago Street”
8. “Paper Kitten Nightmare”
9. “Barfight Revolution, Power Violence”
10. “A Light on a Hill”
11. “Talking in Code”
Thank you so much laughingstock! More to come as we wrap up the aughts the way the good lard intended!
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