PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Literature: Chorus

This is a huge step forward for the band, while preserving all of the most attractive qualities of the debut.



Label: Slumberland
US Release Date: 2014-08-19
UK Release Date: 2014-08-18
Label website

Literature have spunk, verve, pluck. Their songs tend to skip and jump and breeze by. Their 2012 debut LP Arab Spring was one of that year's indie-pop delights, a rough, charming run-through of singalong pop anthems. The more highly produced follow-up, their Slumberland Records debut Chorus, strikes the same tone while feeling altogether more developed. It is a huge step forward for the band, while preserving all of the most attractive qualities of the debut.

The album's carefree, energetic tone is struck by the first sound of the first song, someone exclaiming, "woo!" That yelp and the crowd noise running through it lend a party atmosphere to a song that might have had it already, with its fast pace and vaguely '60s rave-up feeling.

On the one hand, the Philadelphia-based group sort of recalls British Invasion-type bands, through their nonstop hooks and the kind of British-sounding vocals. My visual image when I listen is a young, cheery, head-nodding band; hot new sensations, something like the band in the film That Thing You Do but cooler and better. At the same time, in spirit and sound there's just as much, or more, '80s UK indie-pop: Field Mice, Felt, etc. And other '80s touchpoints: a Cure-like bassline here, some New Order synths there. There's lushness, romanticism and an inherent siding with the lonely and the sad that recalls that era even when there are audible echoes of earlier rock-pop eras and styles.

Matters of the heart are at the forefront, as they should be in pop music. A few songs seem directed towards would-be lovers or at least people the song's protagonist feels affection for or wants to support, like on the first single "The English Soft Hearts". That's one of several songs where they seem to be speaking for the introverted and lonely, whether they're singing about themselves or others. A lyric that jumps out in that regard comes from "Blasé": "there he is / There he goes / Smelling the flowers / And going for broke." That combination, go-for-broke and stopping to smell the flowers, seems like the key to the band's approach.

For all of the album's speed and hook-cramming, there's a softness throughout that can be surprising. On a song like "Jimmy", they start off locked in, playing loud 'rock' music, but seconds later, they've turned towards the sweet and the gentle. On "Chime Hours", they go the furthest towards adopting downtempo sway, tilting towards Clientele-like dreamy territory while retaining the same drive as on the most hyper of their anthems.

As rollicking as the album is, there always seems to be more going on under the surface than your listening mind I grasping. The first song's title, "The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything" somehow encapsulates the film noir and nouvelle vague feelings that creep to the surface at times, on purpose or not. If we're going to think of music in terms of literary genres, there is something of the crime and mystery novel here, even when they're singing about shy boys' concerns and struggles. The last song, "Kites", always stops me with its lyric, "I see your face every time someone dies", leaving me wondering whose face and why. That is a key part of Literature's rare charm, the way they rely on velocity and gentleness to inspire feelings and questions at every turn.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.


Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.


MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.