Our Lost 10 of '10 list rumbles on with Alexander Tudor's pick...
Meursault, All Creatures Will Make Merry (Song by Toad)
It’s been said that "indie" is now as likely to mean "alt. country tinged" as "a bit garage-y" or "bedroom electro-pop". Meursault's 2 1/2 albums to date are definitively 21st century, then, in their use of whatever textures it takes to match their emotional complexity; be it: banjos, harmoniums, guitar-feedback, live-electronics. The difference is, there’s a fluidity to the playing, so that none of these elements seems tacked on. Lyrically, like Frightened Rabbit or Arab Strap, Meursault nail that dark Scots humour – at their most philosophical when they're most blunt; at their most tender when they're their most graphic – and while they may not have as much crossover potential right now, they could be the best underground band in Britain. This isn’t damning with faint praise, just a pragmatic observation that Meursault’s songs – all with hooks and stunning turns-of-phrase aplenty – aren’t obvious anthems; rather, bursts of raw emotion seem to emerge from an ambient fog, a little like (Best New Indie Act of 2009) The Antlers. It’s a world you’re meant to enter, instead of a soundtrack to the gym / commute / whatever.
The band haven’t bothered creating a mystique, but you get the impression Neil Pennycook’s a Will Oldham-like personality: ferociously creative yet open to collaboration. Their first album, Pissing on Bonfires / Kissing with Tongues only came out in April 2008, followed by the Nothing Broke mini-album / EP that focused on sparser arrangements. The fact that the 2010 album didn’t set the world alight may have been due to a hint of disappointment from reviewers, but read between the lines and you realize the band perfected the sound first time, and released a worthy-but-not-superior follow-up. Pennycook describes his own production as aiming for the sound of The Microphones / Mt Eerie (“epic lo-fi”), which explains the endorsements from US music critics, while the band still have a low profile, at home. Yes, both bands evoke rugged, hostile, hyperboreal environments, but at the starkest moments there’s what Oldham calls a “grand dark feeling of emptiness” – a sense that the band have captured something you can’t fake. Whether it’s the guitars hurtling towards some needling scream of unsurpassable intensity, or Pennycook’s voice rising from a confessional whisper to a holler, Meursault take you further than most; the hope is, word-of-mouth will take them further, too.