The Miserable Rich are sweetly, but not too cloyingly, twee. They brandish an innocent style of country-tinged chamber folk better suited to the balmy evenings of summer than the long, cold nights of winter but this impressive debut should warm your heart nonetheless.
With names like James De Malplaquet and Will Calderbank, you may think the title of the band is self-descriptive, but apparently it comes instead from an experience the Brighton duo had in Italy, playing at a wedding for toffs and realising that the audience weren’t exactly the chirpiest of sunbeams. Coming home, they added three pals and formed a “bar room chamber quartet”, replacing guitars with violins and cellos.
With links to Lightspeed Champion, Hope Of The States and Brighton’s musical Willkomen Collective, they’re part of a well-established scene. The effect this brings is a sense of knowing themselves and their intended audience well, resulting in a debut that sounds settled, confident and already sure of itself.
With gentle vocals over chamber strings, they could also draw parallels with a less angst-ridden Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, while the gentle strums of tracks such as The Knife Thrower’s Hand recall delicate sea shanties and carny tales that could rub shoulders with The Decemberists and Kid Harpoon in the right kind of festival marquee. A perfect example of this is tenth track, Poodle and its darker successor, Merry Go Round.
The result is that Twelve Ways To Count draws you in slowly, overcoming first impressions that it lacks strength or depth to give you a gentle smile from the corner of the room that you just can’t ignore. Monkey manages to sound both Americana-tinged and resolutely English, a half-forgotten village green fete with tea and cakes not too far away.
There’s plenty of music much like this out there already, of course, but there’s always room for more. Their songs are beautiful and unpretentious, like aural fairy cakes with sugared violet icing encased in lace doilies. They sound not so much like the miserable rich as the rather bored middle class, lounging on striped deck chairs in front of half-hearted cricket. It’s thoroughly charming of course, if only in an endearingly pointless sort of way.
One quick tip: don’t turn off the CD player until you’ve found the secret track. By far the highlight of the entire album, the reward it offers you for being too lazy to get up and turn it off sums up the entire experience. A moment of genius you really shouldn’t miss.