After forming in 2008, it’s fair to say that Little Green Cars’ debut album can rightly be described as ‘long-awaited’. The five-piece from Dublin may have taken a while to release their first record – something that may be due to the fact they are all still only 20 years old – but in the last couple of years they have really started to lay the foundations for what was always going to be a big 2013 for them.
Following impressive performances during tours of America and the UK in 2012, Little Green Cars were shortlisted in the BBC Sound Of 2013 poll. Critically-acclaimed sets at SXSW and Coachella, as well as a spot on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, only added to their growing reputation, with their simple melodies proving very popular. But anyone concerned that the hype may have been too much for the band can relax.
Little Green Cars’ debut, Absolute Zero, ticks all the boxes and does so while demonstrating a remarkable maturity for such a young band. No doubt the album’s polished finish had much to do with Markus Dravs being at the helm for production duties, with his previous work with the likes of Arcade Fire and Coldplay having a telling influence on the resulting album.
Album opener Harper Lee, which clearly references the writer’s most famous work To Kill A Mockingbird, is the perfect way to kick things off, with the song’s driving chorus setting the precedent for what’s to come. “There’s a gun in the attic let me go grab it/ I’d blow holes in my soul just so you can look past it,” sings Stevie Appleby, as the band’s beautiful, rousing harmonies give Mumford And Sons a run for their money.
The strong start to the record continues with Angel Owl, which begins with a delicately plucked verse before bursting into life on the chorus, and the powerful My Love Took Me Down To The River To Silence Me. The latter sees the band’s sole female singer Faye O’Rourke deliver a stirring and unforgettable vocal over an otherwise straightforward acoustic backing, as she asserts: “This love’s killing me, but I want it to.”
Big Red Dragon is another that sticks out from Absolute Zero, with its bristling pace and Appleby’s addictive vocals combining to create a joyous four-minute track, one that would be pretty perfect listening for the drive home from work. Then there’s the already well-known The John Wayne. The song deals with the fairly depressing topic of unrequited love, but the band’s luscious harmonies almost make the subject matter completely irrelevant. Other album highlights include the majestic The Consequences of Not Sleeping and the equally compelling The Kitchen Floor, which, once again, gives O’Rourke an opportunity to show off her stunning vocals.
While there is a lot to love about Little Green Cars’ debut, it isn’t without faults. Red And Blue is a disappointing choice of song to mark the half way point, with Appleby’s use of a vocoder not making for an enjoyable listen, while the stripped-back Goodbye Blue Monday is forgettable.
But for the most part, Absolute Zero is a confident first release, with the attention to detail and focus on harmonies making it clear to see why it topped the charts in Ireland. The band’s ability to contrast their often dark lyrics with upbeat melodies ensures that there is much more to the record than first meets the eye and, while Little Green Cars may not be the finished article just yet, Absolute Zero proves they undoubtedly have bags of potential.