The record label arm of Brixton and West End based club How Does It Feel To Be Loved? is fast earning itself the reputation of digging out some of the best new indiepop from both sides of the Atlantic. A Sarah Records for the noughties, it’s given us six LPs from the likes of Butcherboy, Saturday Looks Good To Me and Pocketbooks, a handful of singles and a compilation album since its inception in September 2006, and each one has been a corker. But there’s always a first, right?
Thankfully for Californian twee-popsters Antarctica Takes It!, they’re not it. Their second release on HDIF, Constellations follows the self-recorded, prickly lo-fi of 2008′s The Penguin League. They’ve come a long way since then – added a few more instruments, fine-tuned their ’60s pop sensibilities and been given a good polish – but not at the expense of what made HDIF fans fall in love with their laptop recorded debut.
The uninitiated could do worse than to listen to Constellations’ opening two tracks. The first, Bossa, is a twinkling nursery rhyme that introduces singer Dylan McKeever’s faltering, Stuart Murdoch-esque voice, while C&F again nods towards Murdoch, relying on jangling piano to carve a sparkling indie disco floor filler that could have easily slotted into an early Belle And Sebastian album.
The rest of Constellations serves up more of the same, with highlights coming in the shape of Straight To Your Heart, a piano-laden slab of feel-good hyper-pop, and Try Try Try, which proved a live favourite during their recent string of gigs in London. Written by McKeever but sung entirely by co-singer Maria Schoettler (“He wrote it but it’s so girly!” she laughed at their Brixton Jamm show last month), it’s an ode to ’60s pop, from the point the guitars threaten to veer into Twist And Shout, to the cutesy spoken word segment towards the end.
There are a few forgettable tracks – the title track and Voices don’t really go anywhere – but when Antarctica Takes It! are good, they’re very good. They craft tunes so immediate, you can’t believe you’ve not known them your entire life. The “du du dus” of Thunderstruck and the sway-along sing song of Spirit Of Love, for example, will stay with you from the first listen. Like their countrymen The Drums (if they were torn away from their surfboards and The Cure records, and sent to make daisy chains and paddle off the beach at Minehead), they’re light relief that will make your Monday morning journey to work that little bit more bearable.
The polishing might have smoothed away their rough edges, but underneath the spit and sawdust is a great band with plenty of DIY sounding tricks up their sleeve.