Pam Berry has one of the great sad voices of our time, not in an anguished or depressive way, but sounding shy, lovelorn and quietly confident at once. Those qualities relate too to these wistful love songs themselves.
Bart Cummings of the Cat’s Miaow had this great indie-pop collaborative group, Bart and Friends, going from time to time back in the ‘90s. In the last couple years he has brought it back as a band, now with members of the Lucksmiths and the Zebras, plus Pam Berry (Black Tambourine, etc.) and Scott Stevens (Summer Cats) as guest vocalists. On this EP, their first for Matinee (and one of two 2012 EPs, with the equally good Shelflife release It’s Not the Words That You Say), Berry sings lead on all six songs. She sang with Cummings back in the day, too, and is an irreplaceable and inimitable part of the indiepop landscape of the past couple decades. Hers is one of the great sad voices of our time, not in an anguished or depressive way, but with a voice that sounds shy, lovelorn and quietly confident at once. Those qualities relate too to these wistful love songs themselves.
The songs look back on first kisses and songs written for crushes with equal measures of romantic glow and nostalgia-filled regret. The opening title track contains the awareness that a piece of first love always stays with us, and the music carries the same mix of longing, expectation and failure. The music is autumnal, like the brightness of summer is gently fading. The songs are short and bittersweet, emulating the same feeling. Even their cover of the immortal, overplayed “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, perhaps the most optimistic and permanent song here (“Take my hand / Take my whole life, too”) has this quality of lovely fleetingness, the way they play it.
Memories and thoughts of love are dreams that gently fade, too. The last song “A Summer’s Dream” represents this and the mystery of endings as well as beginnings: “A summer’s dream drew you to me / And why I woke I couldn’t say”. That song and one other here appeared also on last year’s Make You Blush EP, and were its best songs. The other, “These Words Are Too Small”, encapsulates so quickly another omnipresent theme: how hard it is to express our feelings. “These words are too small / For what I’m trying to say” is a devastating conclusion.