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Friday, January 25, 2013

"Pretty Decent Swimmers", Northern Portrait, jangle-pop champions

Pretty Decent Swimmers EP

Understatements or modesty are frequently virtues when we are talking about music (usually musicians or critics have serious problems of incontinence, delusions of grandeur or extra-huge ambitions). But I do have to complain here. Our favourite Danish band (along with The Raveonettes), Northern Portrait, is happily back with a new EP (a new record on the horizon too) entitled "Pretty Decent Swimmers", already available on the amazing Matinée Recordings. What an inappropriate, bad title this is!
Because if we are using the swimming reference with indiepop, they are nothing but Olympic Swimmers, not just pretty decent ones. They are the responsible of an incredible, mind-blowing debut album, "Criminal Art Lovers", plus a little collection of delicious EPs. And after hearing their new gorgeous four songs, they should be nicknamed the "Michael Phelps of jangle-pop"!

Come on, how many bands could return to action after three years with such a shimmering, joyful tune like opener "Happy Nice Day"? It starts unremarkable, but after 30 seconds the real song unleashes into n irresistible jangle-pop "beast". Stefan Larsen romantic voice, guitars ringing, a pulse that slows and rises like your heartbeat, a disarming chorus... all the essence of Northern Portrait summarized and perfected into a pop gem. Sure it will be up there among the best songs of the year (and I know we haven't finished January yet).

With such a great initial song, “Greetings From Paris”, pales by comparison on first listening. But that's a very unfair judgement for a subtler, more oblique and intimate number. Give the tune it's time and space, and it will show all its wonders: Larsen's graceful vocals, that guitar breaking in its middle section before the singer strikes back, that ridiculously simple end turning into a ridiculously affecting climax...

“Bon Voyage!” accelerates the tempo a bit, helped by ever-present guitars (this is jangle-pop folks) and looks, smells and of course sounds like a pop classic. What made The Smiths so immortal was that passion they brought to all of his parts: Morrissey's drama, melodies so unforgettable, guitars chiming or evoking known situations. Northern Portrait are capable of injecting that sort of magic to their tunes. Hear how they close the song. That piano...

We reach the end of the EP with “I Feel Even Better”, on which Larsen seems to step back a bit to let the music be on the forefront of the tune. Melody, together with the delicate arrangements are the guide here. With lyrics that are somewhere in between melancholy and the "first day of a new era", it might be the less the surprising of the lot, but it leaves the listener longing for me. Which is exactly what the best bands do. Northern Portrait add another unmissable reference to an immaculate career so far, could we be in front of the champions of jangle-pop? Have to see them live at the Madrid PopFest!!

SCORE: 7,75/10

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