Saturday 27 July 2013

A Little Orchestra - Clocks

Album review by

There's not much chance of A Little Orchestra falling foul of the Trade Descriptions Act. With opening song, 'Clocks, Part 3' being an instrumental consisting of a variety of wind and string instruments and having a light baroque feel to it. The band were formed by Monster Bobby of The Pipettes in 2010 and 'Clocks' is their first full-length, including guest spots by the great and good of the indiepop world, but with a style that's far less reliant on guitar and drums, instead using chamber music and a wealth of age-old instruments to form songs from. Fundamentally A Little Orchestra are like a school band who never left school, they just grew up and went on to make amazing pop songs instead.

To go with 'Clocks, Part 3', we also get the slightly warped 'Clocks, Part 2', something which could have come from Brian Wilson's creative mid-60s period, and 'Clocks, Part 5', the third short instrumental which has a darker, more cinematic air to it. Quite what happened to parts 1 and 4 we can't tell you, but they're not included here. The rest of the songs here contain guest vocalists, a different one for each song, which rather than making the album sound fractured, actually gives it a touch more variety and adds to the overall interest. It's the single 'Josefina' that arrives first, an acoustic track with a delightful timbre that's ordained in a rich variety of instruments for the chorus and has undeniably sweet vocals courtesy of Model Village. The omnipresent Darren Hayman adds his familiar tones to slowie 'The Permanent Way', perhaps one of the more conventional songs on the album (comparatively at least), although the arrangement is still perfect.

It almost seems a prerequisite for any form of indiepop to have some connection to Scotland, so Ballboy's Gordon McIntyre brings that appealing accent to 'East Coast', another pensive but delightful slowie. When talking about the song 'Wild Beasts' (this one features Apple Eyes) is difficult to not think of that dreaded word: quirky. But quirky it is and all the better for it. A big highlight is 'Treacle, You Should Probably Go To Sleep' which is closer to what people may expect from such a band and includes Simon Love on vocal duties, the melody already sounds classic. Current indie darlings Haiku Salut lend a helping hand to the continental-inflected 'Train Tracks For Wheezy', another cinematic sounding piece, and this is followed by 'Footprints In The Snow' featuring Emma Winston which again could be from a soundtrack. Rather than ending with a densely orchestrated bang, A Little Orchestra finish off with a tender, delicate song called 'Pightie 21' with Lisa Bouvier as guest. This choice of finale seems perfectly fitting for an album of this design. No matter who guests on any of these songs, the arrangements are never anything short of impeccable.

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