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Various Artists – Be True To Your School (A Fortuna POP! Compilation)

Various Artists – Be True To Your School (A Fortuna POP! Compilation)

 

Fifteen years is a very long time to not make money doing something, so anyone who braves such an undertaking should probably be congratulated or committed (in the mental sense, not stick-to-itiveness). The legacy of Fortuna POP! records is far funnier than most, and has also produced some records and artists that have consistently threatened to fall into mainstream hands but never quite made it (well, some of them are making it, but we’ll get to that). This adds charm and underground kudos, but no money at all, you’ll not be surprised to find out.

Be True To Your School is a potted history, one track from most of the bands who were/are on the label, and it makes for a wistful listen. Those familiar with the label will recognise it mostly as one that supposedly mopped up after the spillage of C-86, but one listen to this compilation shows it to be something quite substantially larger and freeform than that. For a start, there’s noise (courtesy of the almost-forgotten but fucking tremendous Finlay and the ever-experimenting Bearsuit), Americana (courtesy of the deranged but beautiful Butterflies Of Love), pub-commentary (courtesy of the Northern indie legends Milky Wimpshake and the erudite MJ Hibbett), dance (courtesy of the slinky beat-theft and soul-sampling of Cannonball Jane) and, yes, twee (courtesy of, most notably, Australia’s shining Lucksmiths and the received pronunciation grit of The Would-Be-Goods). An amazing roster.

If forced to pick a favourite from this excellent and exhausting line-up, the sensible choice is Conneticut’s Butterflies Of Love – theirs is the strangest story, the longest road and probably the finest music. Rob A Bank still tingles after ten years, and is undoubtedly the best single the label ever released. But sensible choices are not always the best, and so I’m plumping for Finlay. Simply one of the finest live bands imaginable (their final Buffalo Bar show saw flowers being thrown into the crowd and a duck-walk guitar solo on the bar), two excellent albums (which demand exploration) of alternate violence and consideration, and all over for now. Sad. Mention also must go to the similarly missed Sodastream, who played pretty much the best show anyone’s ever played back in 2007 at St. Giles’ Church in London. I’m not one for too many religious references, but that night it felt like the big guy was smiling too. Good one, God.

But by Christ! There’s longevity to the label, scope for future and a remarkable ability for picking indie taste du jour – Bowie-endorsed and friends of Darren Hayman pop winners Fanfarlo, Guardian-endorsed and friends of Daniel Johnston retro-pop sluggers The Loves and plenty more to come in the approaching years, one doesn’t doubt. So with this retrospective, one is drawn to the future. There’s life aplenty in Fortuna POP!, even if no-one’s swimming in piles of money like Scrooge McDuck, and the quality control meter appears to be swinging into green for the most part. There’s too much to mention here, just dive straight in to these nuggets of pop perfection and appreciate the label for all it’s done for us. Just don’t mention twee.

Originally published here. Visit Fortuna POP! for all things varied and un-twee here.

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The Lucksmiths – First Frost

The Lucksmiths – First Frost (Fortuna POP!)

 The Lucksmiths

Melbourne’s The Lucksmiths are a band to whom, by now, the phrase ‘return to form’ means nothing at all. If your ‘form’, such as it is, means consistently churning out breezy indie-pop intricacies and curios over the course of eleven LPs with a gradually rising bar of quality, then your ‘form’ such as it is cannot possibly be returned to. The tendency among commentators is to assert journalistic authority and say “No! Truly, this is the finest Lucksmiths LP so far,” whenever one is released. As it stands, First Frost probably isn’t their finest, but that means nothing when your ‘form’, such as it is – you understand.

There are musical elements that mark something of a small explosion for the band. Louis Richter is finally felt on the guitar and makes excellent melodic contributions throughout, implicitly adding another line to the mix with surprisingly far-reaching results (hear his mournful, sweet plod on The National Mitten Registry). The extra instrumental arrangements have also reached a new level of crisp accomplishment, particularly demonstrable on the opening The Town And Hills (incidentally a Richter-penned number). After waiting for almost too long, the simplistic guitars open up into a cascading collection of horns and strings too pretty to render the first half of the song frustrating. Neat trick.

Because it’s a Lucksmiths record, there’s a great deal of lyrical bite to explore too, often the gift of Marty Donald. The drawn-out rhyme scheme and elaborate story of A Sobering Thought is impressive, but some of the gloopier moments show a slightly more wistful bent – perhaps more than before. Pines is seasonal duality, sleepy sentiment and its perfect musical accompaniment, and a lovely moment among many.

The sleeve and inlay are pure cutesy understatement – various ranch-like scenes of the band at work and play. This affords the listener a strange connection with First Frost. We see The Lucksmiths in absolutely no danger, no rush and with no pressures whatever. These, you might argue, are conditions not best suited to ripping studio sessions, but they provide a rare accompaniment. Leafy vistas in both scene and lyric mirror the music itself with fine taste. But that’s their form, as we’ve discussed. Contented authors, muted discomfort in the lyrics, subtle tweaks of musical formulae; The Lucksmiths have done it again and created their finest LP so far, you might say.

First Frost comes out in early December – visit the band here.

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The Lucksmiths – Up With The Sun/A Sobering Thought

The Lucksmiths – Up With The Sun/A Sobering Thought (Just When One Was Needed) (Fortuna Pop!)

 

Decently, Australia’s The Lucksmiths have elected to make this taster of their forthcoming First Frost LP (their eleventh) a free download. This is a very good deal. Neither of these songs challenges what you might expect to hear from The Lucksmiths, but the odd tweak to their indie-pop formula manages to keep things entertaining enough. More than entertaining enough, actually.

Built, as they so frequently are, around Marty Donald’s ingenious lyrical conceits, his knowledge of language and gentle strumming, both songs are evidence enough of the band’s inclusion in the indie-pop hall of fame alongside Belle & Sebastian and every other band they’re always mentioned in the same sentence as. Do some research, you’ll get it. Up With The Sun begins as a typically bouncy jaunt, but Louis Richter is now showing amply the worthiness of his recent inclusion in the group. His fuzzed guitar gives the song not only another melodic line, but some very welcome texture, noise and, at points, the kind of shoegazing rumbles that you never knew were missing from the band’s sound.

A Sobering Thought (Just When One Was Needed) may be quieter, but it’s no less well-designed and evolutionary (for an indie-pop band). Bouncier and beautifuller than the A-side, its contemplative nature is summarised by the sweet imagery we’re shown. Bottles on the floor, sunlight under the door, it’s the morning we’ve all cared not to remember. Trust The Lucksmiths to employ the oldest and best twee (sorry…) trick in the book and counterbalance lyrical embarrassment with musical prettiness.

Visit their MySpace here and listen to the B-side. These tracks will be available for free download on November 10th, probably from their website. Win! Check back next week for a review of the new album.

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