Article by KevW
Glaswegian musician Melanie Whittle formed The Hermit Crabs over a decade ago when California Snow Story, for whom she was the drummer, went on hiatus. Since then she's collaborated with different artists on a selection of EPs and albums, the latest being 'In My Flat' which sees her teaming up with Jeremy Jensen and Jake Hite of The Very Most (who she's also worked with in the past as part of the group Baffin Island). Although most of the album was recorded in Idaho, there's still the unmistakable sound of Glaswegian indiepop about 'In My Flat', and unashamedly so. The usual comparisons apply - this is essentially a cross between early Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura - but that's not to say it doesn't have its own merit, not in the slightest.
Perhaps a little American influence has rubbed off in the lyrics to opener 'Bravado and Rhetoric' which references The Grand Canyon and the Midwest while talking about female-led punk bands, but musically you won't find much punk here; this is wonderful and slightly twee galloping indiepop with some great guitar breaks and gentle backing vocals. There's a country vibe to 'Should I Drop You Off?' with its steel guitar and brushed drums. Not for the last time, it's a song that references being an artist. The wistful 'I'm A Fool' is thematically quite typical for its genre, talking about being foolishly in love, but it's lovely with it. Sadder still is 'High Maintenance' which tells of the difficulty of being in a relationship with someone in another country, but again it glides by musically and the arrangement has the perfect balance between being minimal and more detailed and layered. It's not stadium indie and it's not lo-fi, which I guess makes The Hermit Crabs a mid-fi band.
If the middle of 'In My Flat' is slower in pace and maudlin in feel then it does gradually move back towards more instantly accessible tracks. The art world pops up again on 'Tracy Emin's Bed' which finds Whittle dealing with depression that leaves her room in a similarly untidy state, but the sparkly piano prevents it from being too down. The pace jumps up a couple of notches for the jangly 'Stuart Murray' (another artist) and is jaunty, poppy and potential single material. Before we reach the end, there's another pause for thought and a slight change of style for the darker, more powerful 'Damage Control' which feels haunted and cinematic. It's maybe the most surprising and interesting tune on the album. There are a lot of tales of love gone wrong/not going well, but this is the most potent. There's a sunny and upbeat ending, musically at least, with 'Did I Tell You That?', but the confusing decisions that come with relationships play a pivotal role in the lyrics once again. 'In My Flat' may be fairly typical indiepop in sound, but the quality of the songs and the way they're arranged is more than enough to make it stand out from the crowd.
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