Londoners My Sad Captains could certainly be lumped in with all the other folk revivalists out there today, but the sound on their sophomore album, Fight Less Win More, is more akin to Matt Pond PA, The American Analog Set, Wooden Birds or Earlimart. Strange to say, but this sound that seemed so prevalent as recently as five years ago has a sort of lovely nostalgia to it that makes My Sad Captains instantly endearing from the first notes of the album’s opener, Orienteers. These guys would have fit right into Zach Braff’s Garden State soundtrack, for instance, and that is by no means a bad thing; music like theirs is hard to come by these days.
Some clichés are to be avoided at risk of triteness and overuse; some, however, are enduring because they encapsulate an idea better than any other arrangement of words could. There’s no better way describe Fight Less Win More than to say that it is the perfect album for a fall afternoon. The acoustic guitar is finger-picked superbly (as on the excellent Heavy Lifting) while the bass and drums establish a sort of coffeehouse laid-back groove and the keyboard launches subtle but affecting atmospherics. Front man Ed Wallis sounds like a quiet and emotionally stirring mix between Matt Pond and Grandaddy‘s Jason Lytle, and the lyrics are smart and whimsical, but not so highbrow as to be off-putting (for example, in Orienteers, Wallis sings “I reserve the right to decompose in front of your eyes. Suffice to say that’s all I’m offering.”).
Orienteers is settled into a nicely plodding groove by shaker and snare, and is quickly rounded out into the sort of quietly lush interplay that makes autumn sweaters what they are; the music is thick with the sense of leaves changing and life’s constant parade stopped just long enough to enjoy the sun and wind on the back porch. The album’s standout track and centrepiece, Little Joanne, is a college rocker in the vein of Polaris. “I’ll never get enough of hangin’ ’round you,” sings Wallis before ushering in a syrupy and flawlessly melodic guitar hook. Round And Back Again is built on the back of an effortless, quiet dance beat (the sort that inspires toe-tapping and smiling despite yourself) reminiscent of Matt Pond PA’s Halloween, and while the “ooh la la” choral refrain feels a bit over the top, by this point you’ve come to trust My Sad Captains to carry you where they will in their wayfaring sea journey.
Fight Less Win More is a rare album in today’s musical landscape. Here, My Sad Captains marry smart lyrics with emotionally transparent delivery, and driving drums with sedate guitars and whispered melody. Certainly, one could accuse the music herein of committing the unforgivable sin of being inoffensive, but what’s the point? Sure, it’s inoffensive, but at a time when irony is a currency and gimmicks translate to credibility, My Sad Captains are a nice find.