This Californian label doesn’t make a huge noise, but its ear for indie pop is sound, and its compilations are rewarding. The Matinée Grand Prix is mostly gently paced, although there’s some bad-girl faster-pussycat noise from England’s Tender Trap and a zooming piece from Scotland’s Strawberry Whiplash. Otherwise, we have marvelous, rueful folksiness from Finland’s Cats on Fire and an elegiac track from the disbanding Australians, the Lucksmiths. The latter is sung by a narrator walking home after a late New Year’s Eve party who arrives so close to dawn that “the get-to-bed birds are singing.” Quietly witty, it finds the group waving goodbye.
Singing about a departed girlfriend in “Bookmark”, fellow Australians the Guild League exemplifies the see-saw battle between egoism and self-knowledge that can make this softly introverted music so moving. First, the singer comes to the brink of self-pity with, “I’ll never forget you,” then steps back into something sterner with the next line: “Or let you back inside my house.” The pause between the two is just long enough for us to register the thought that went into that qualification.
// Notes from the Road
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