After giving us such musical treats as Howling Bells and Midlake in 2006, Bella Union seems set to keep up the quality throughout 2007 if their recent sampler album and now this debut from The Kissaway Trail are any indication.
The Kissaway Trail may have one of the worst band names you’ll come across this year, but they can be half-forgiven on the basis that English isn’t their first language, hailing as they do from Denmark. This in itself is bodes well, as there’s been some excellent new bands from Scandinavia in recent times – with the Shout Out Louds being perhaps the pick of the bunch – and The Kissaway Trail are following the same path.
Euphoric, layered and richly dense pop melodies recall the Flaming Lips (particularly on Forever Turned Out to be Too Long and Soul Assassins), combined with ’60s harmonies, lush indie sensibilities and a welcome sense of playfulness – such as on the La La Song – that never takes itself too seriously while still managing to sound like a more sane Wayne Coyne’s younger brothers.
At times they sound very ’80s, mirroring the perfect electro-enhanced guitars of Peter Gabriel and even fellow countrymen A-ha, and at others completely modern, with the strong guitars on Tracy, as well as on Eloquence and Elixir, giving them an air of a gentler Strokes on a warm summer day.
They can do drum intros too, on Sometimes I’m Always Back, singing about icicles and winter tears over a heavy beat juxtaposed with falsetto vocals that works perfectly. It’s clever, and just one reason why they’re more than just your average new Arcade Fire wannabes.
It seems lazy to shout Sigur Ros just because they’re from more northern latitudes than us, but it’s hard not to on tracks such as Bleeding Hearts, where the extensive instrumental sessions send icy shivers down your spine and the vocals come in over dark pianos like a lost whisper, and they do share an engineer – Mandy Parnell – with that band. As an ending to the album, Bleeding Hearts is perfect, a midnight indie-pop lullaby where earlier in the album they shone like the midday sun.
Thomas L Fagerlund and Soren B Corneliussen share vocal duties throughout and their styles are different enough to warrant two singers. With the entire band providing additional vocals at one time or another, the singing as well as the instrumentation is full and rich throughout, filling out the multi-instrumental soundscapes while never getting lost in them.
The result is an accomplished debut that sounds as if it’s by a band who’ve been around for far longer. Warm without being disposable and dark without losing themselves in melancholy, they sit somewhere in between two camps, occupying a middle ground that can and should appeal to virtually everyone.