PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

The Pearlfishers: Sky Meadows

Will Harris

The Pearlfishers

Sky Meadows

Label: EFA
US Release Date: 2003-09-23
UK Release Date: 2003-10-13
Amazon
iTunes

When Art Garfunkel released his 2002 album, Everything Waits to Be Noticed, a journalistic colleague of mine praised it to the heavens as a work of brilliance; I accepted his rave, purchased the CD without having heard a single song, and, lo and behold, the album turned out to be a stellar album of soft pop.

As I was enjoying the disc, another acquaintance of mine compared it favorably to the Pearlfishers.

The result: I immediately wanted to know all there was to know about the Pearlfishers. I'm a sucker for a favorable comparison to another artist.

Described by Stewart Mason on the All Music Guide as "a glorious soft pop band mixing acoustic-based music with subtle orchestral flourishes, rather like a Glasgow-based Prefab Sprout with a major Brian Wilson fixation", this description of the Pearlfishers is certainly apt based on Sky Meadows, their third album.

While the High Llamas rip off Brian Wilson unabashedly -- like, to the point where you'd be hard pressed to pin down anyone else in their record collection -- the Pearlfishers certainly aren't afraid to mix up their influences. In addition to Wilson, it's very important to also include the Beatles, Burt Bacharach, and Todd Rundgren. After all, any group that entitles a song "Todd Is God" would probably rather enjoy it if you cited Rundgren as the subject of one of their fixations. At the very least, they're certainly not going to argue the point; they wouldn't have much of a leg to stand on, now, would they?

The Pearlfishers have spent their entire career on independent labels, and Sky Meadows is no exception, released on Marina Records in Germany and distributed in the US by Parasol. This clearly allows frontman/songwriter David Scott the sort of freedom to follow his own muse that every artist prefers, and which major labels stifle at most every opportunity, in order to cater to current industry trends. Listening to Sky Meadows and a track like "My Dad the Weatherfan", a song so instantly reminiscent of Burt Bacharach that the man should get a percentage of the royalties, you can hear how immaculately it's structured; it's clear this album, no doubt like its predecessors, was a labor of love.

Mind you, the production was handled by Scott himself, which makes it easy to capture exactly what you want.

What interesting is that, despite its elaborate instrumentation, it's devoid of any particularly retro touches, which is wise; it's all too easy to get caught up in trying to reproduce the precise sound of a bygone era once you've started. (It's almost too easy to cite any number of artists from the Rainbow Quartz label as examples of this, so I'll restrain myself.) Yes, the muted horns on "Todd Is God" and "My Dad the Weatherfan" add to the feel of the song, but never do you particularly get the feeling that you've stepped through a time warp. It's more of a loving tribute than a blatant replica. Same with the way you can hear strains of Paul McCartney circa Ram and Band on the Run in "Haricot Bean and Bill" without being able to pinpoint precisely what causes the aural similarity. Fans of such present-day soft pop artists as Linus of Hollywood, the Heavy Blinkers, and June and the Exit Wounds would certainly be on terra firma with this album.

While Paddy MacAloon is off exploring his experimental, instrumental side with I Am the Megahertz, after listening to Sky Meadows, there seems no reason at all why the Pearlfishers can't fill the void left by Prefab Sprout.

And, hell, when Paddy gets back, the battle for ultimate supremacy should be fun, too.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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