Tandem Felix – Comma EP (Trout Records)
An extremely accomplished new collection from this Dublin four piece plying various strands of Americana to superb effect.
‘Nothing I do will ever be good enough’ is a version of the self-pitying country staple but with several beautiful arrangement flourishes to distinguish it – the wandering synth break, the wonderfully restrained steel guitar, the shakers as uplift to the chorus, even the fleeting detail of the treatment on the word “smoke”.
‘Waiting in the wings’ brings a neat stop start structure to a deceptively vicious little lyric which is satisfyingly full of spite and driven by ingenious piano octaves.
‘Moon tingles’ has something of the stately grace of Lambchop to it, although perhaps if Sufjan Stevens sat in on vocals. Fiddle, steel guitar and a sublime harmonica cameo fill out the edges gorgeously.
‘Union St Blues’ takes on the Sufjan thread, a dark night of the soul ballad given great propulsion by a rhythmic banjo riff and a silky backbeat and topped off with handsome vocal falsetto harmonies.
‘Mandarin’ rounds things off with piano and steel guitar in the lead sounding reasonably conventional until a turn for the weird at the end as the guitars collapse in a welter of delay.
It would all remind you of the rightly revered Boa Morte, maybe also Sparklehorse, dilligently ploughing its own furrow, tempo and songwriting strand. Special mention for the drumming and percussion which consistently stand out in a field where most would settle for the middle line. It succeeds in showing the songs in an edgier, more complex light – the vocal delivery for example, endearing as it is half mumbled and sometimes barely there, would not compel half as much without this rhythmic counterpoint underneath.
Lovely spacey production, forward thinking arrangements, knotty intrigues of songs - it’s a pleasure front and back.