ELBA is out in Denmark 01.07.2013 – on Target Distribution
Preorder Worldwide (CD): bit.ly/album-preorder
What happens when a night watchman from an institution for mentally ill teens meets an established instrumentalist from heralded Danish indie/pop act? Well, here is the document. Ten well-crafted songs with dark subject matter, haunted vocals, and 80’s tinted stabs at writing teen movie soundtrack numbers. Vocalist and lyricist Andreas Sorgenfrei and guitarist Kasper Nissen (of The Rumour Said Fire) have teamed up to take the show on the road and crafted a well put together record for the retro synth pop generation.
Sometimes I truly wonder as an outsider in Denmark, what year is it? With enough disposable income and low interest loans to float most third world economies, the Danish young adults follow all the trends in music, fashion, and culture. There is nothing that can’t be obtained, sourced and manipulated to entertain musicians, artists, and paying audiences alike. Good looking people, with everything going for them that play wonderful music and have a great time doing it. Walk down the street in any of Denmark’s 3 or 4 cities and you could easily reckon that this could be the summer of 1993, 1987, 1967, 1955, or whatever, it’s daunting, and each pocket of fashion has its own music scene.
I’m here though to talk about Elba, the 10 song debut album from Copenhagen’s Mount Rushmore Safari. The first thing one notices is the tight structure, flawless production, and tasteful beneficial arrangements of their pieces. The songs weave in and out of one another, designed to take the potential listener on a musical journey through the dark mind (and assumed soul) of our front man- Andreas. His voice affects a dark baritone pitch, often manipulated by effects and yet still powerful and to the fore of the mix. He is MRS’s best weapon, much to the chagrin often times of the lyrics, phrasing, and emotion however of the songs as a whole. Here is a voice back from the grave of the 80’s, well steeped in years of studying Depeche Mode, The Church, The Cure, and any band from “The Breakfast Club” soundtrack.
The 1st number “House on Fire” sets the tone and pattern for the album, and looking at the sine wave of peaks and valleys on the soundcloud map of the album, it’s quite evident that the bulk of the songs have a similar structure, designed for maximum effect: Intro, back it off a bit for the verse, build into the chorus, some sort of middle 8 bridge, verse or chorus, and exit. Nothing wrong with this. It’s the wheelhouse of 80’s pop music, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right? A seamless transfer into the second number, “promised you the world” brings us into more soundtrack territory, teasing us with highs and lows, more haunted vocals, a wonderful production, and bang on authentic feel for 80’s synth pop. This track could easily slide into the Donnie Darko o.s.t., and that’s a good thing in my world.
The first three tracks are crucial on an album, and it is evident that these guys recognize that. The attention span of the modern listener is very short. We have access to nearly every song ever released on devices hooked into clouds, and the size of a bar of chocolate in our palms. Mount Rushmore Safari are making a play for the contenders by rounding off their first triptych with “watched you die”, which intentionally or not, is a dead ringer for Pulp’s massive “common people”, at least in the verse. Still though, for most people, this is only going to help their cause, not hurt it.
Taking in the rest of the album was a pleasurable experience. Other high points were “nothing’s gonna stop” (a more laid back affair, that could easily get in the ring with a Raveonettes track) and “Up the Hill”, a powerful well-crafted festival crowd killer that I just can’t help but liken to classic 2000’s British rock like Coldplay or Keane. Their initial concept of classic 80’s pop is beginning to ripple a bit though, as we see in the following track “John Wayne”. It’s a darker affair with an air of Danish-ness to it, because it frankly sounds like something Nephew would do, and definitely harkens back to the previous generation of 80’s revivalists like “the Bravery” or “Kaiser Chiefs” at times. However, again, I’m just telling it like it is, none of this is a bad thing. If you’re into it.
The rest of the album fills out nicely, and it’s stunningly accurate production definitely makes the well written songs shine. This band has lots of potential, and I hope that it isn’t just a “project”, doomed to warm up gigs, a few festival slots, and the obligatory run through Germany for a few glorious concerts. (The Germans love this kind of stuff).
Some of the faults of the album though are that, for me, it seems almost too over baked, and some of the passion needed to lift the pieces out of the ordinary run-of-the-mill retro 80’s synth scene (and there are ALOT of cats out there doing this in Europe), was lost in the mix. Redemption though can be found online, where you can check out the band in studio rehearsal mode on YouTube, doing “Up the Hill” to great effect, unfettered by the clinical atmosphere of the studio. Andreas has a great rock voice, (albeit attention can be drawn away at times by his often thick Danglish accent in places), and the lyrics and songs are definitely there, and not going anywhere else for some time. You have my permission to enjoy this, wherever you are, whenever you are, and whoever you are.