London band My Sad Captains is a genuine discovery of solid vocal prowess. The quintet has drawn little attention from the media despite the release of Here and Elsewhere in 2009.
It is not known whether the band found its name from the namesake poem by Thomas Gunn called My Sad Captains (1961). The poem is about Gunn's recollection of former friendships:
One by one they appear in
the darkness: a few friends, and
a few with historical
names. How late they start to shine!
but before they fade they stand
perfectly embodied, all
the past lapping them like a
cloak of chaos. They were men
who, I thought, lived only to
renew the wasteful force they
spent with each hot convulsion.
They remind me, distant now.
True, they are not at rest yet,
but now they are indeed
apart, winnowed from failures,
they withdraw to an orbit
and turn with disinterested
hard energy, like the stars.
NME labelled the album "Nice-enough-but-predictable Americana-leaning indie", which is a fair judgement, but it still oversees the freshness that this album has brought to the indie music community.
The mixed influences of My Sad Captains spans decades and genres: The twee-pop influence of the American band When I Was 12 (S is for Subway) as manifested in All Hat and No Plans (nodding to the quaintness of the dominant Scandinavian indie pop scene), to the obvious Beatles-homage Troika, and the resonance of much of their oeuvre with contemporary band Tigers That Talked (23 fears). Think indie pop band Favours For Sailors and how it managed to drag 90's cult band Pavement out of the dark: Beach Boys meets Pavement.
Some of the highlights of the album Here and Elsewhere:
Here and Elsewhere: The poster boy of the album, a delicious eye-catching portion of pop, and nothing else. Predictable maybe, but the chorus "It's only a game so I'd rather be unknown" got me: Big melodies and jolly choruses is what makes the album great. The use of instruments is interesting, including a French harmonica!
All Hat and No Plans: This twee-influenced, summery track is sure to rate high on radio playlists everywhere. Think Architecture In Helsinki meets The Shout Out Louds.
Ghost Song: Another well-crafted pop anthem with the main thesis that "you can't have a ghost song, even with the lights on".
Troika: While not explicitly mentioned, this track is the most obvious manifestation of the influence that the Beatles have inflicted on My Sad Captains (without being credited). Their style is a furthering (a pastiche if you want) of many of the elements that made 60's britpop great: The fearless declaration of living in the now, the slight vocal trace of melancholy and the relentless youthfulness of each track: Nowhere Man, Norwegian Wood, Girl, In My Life, Here There and Elsewhere, All You Need is Love and With A Little Help From My Friends.
Great Expectations: Interesting attempt at covering Dickens in musical format: "I'm going to get you out of this, if it's the last thing I ever do". Think a crossover of The Magic Numbers with The Polyphonic Spree.