Sunday, 16 February 2014

Album of the Week #13

Artist: Arthur Beatrice
Album: Working Out
Year: 2014
Label: Polydor

Sleek, sophisticated indie pop

Patience is a virtue. London quartet Arthur Beatrice formed in 2010 and went on to feature in the NME and The Guardian in 2011, but it's taken three years for their debut album to emerge since then. The band decided to follow what is becoming somewhat of a well-trodden path in terms of album promotion - no promotion at all. After their mentions in the national music media, they retreated into their own studio and slowly put together what would become Working Out.  A lot of what they do seems meticulously planned, from Arthur Beatrice reflecting the male/female vocals to the name of the album, Working Out, seemingly a telling nod to the band honing, finetuning and discovering their own sound over those three or four years. And that's certainly something that they've managed to do. While their brand of sleek, sophisticated pop recalls contemporaries such as The xx and Wild BeastsWorking Out is far from a rehash of old ideas.
Self-produced by the band, it's an album where each note seems pored over, each drum fill well-thought out and each lyric considered, torn apart and rewritten.  Although it may well have been planned to within an inch of its life, it somehow retains a sense of freedom and not once does it sound forced or mechanical. The minimalist guitar sounds of dreamy opener Councillor is the track most reminiscent of The xx, whilst the pained lyrics of Late and Carter - Uncut soon give way to uplifting choruses - a prevalent theme throughout.
But Midland and Charity are the finest examples of what Arthur Beatrice are truly capable of. Midland begins with singer Ella Girardot's typically haunting vocals, before slowly building into a joyous chorus with Chic-esque guitars propelling the track into dance territory. The chorus is one of the finest of the year so far, a notion reinforced when Girardot's falsetto vocals strike in the second chorus. In an album full of contrasts and counterpoints, typically it is the male vocals of Orlando Leopard which then drive the similarly-euphoric Charity. The tracks tend to follow a similar structure, with dark, brooding openings leading into uptempo choruses before retreating into their shells once more. Despite the success the band have with this formula, the repetition is one of the album's very few drawbacks.
Working Out is an assured debut album and also a tantalising glimpse of what the future could hold for the band. Whilst a set of songs  that are this precise can often come across as dull and impersonal, it's the impassioned vocal delivery and powerful lyrics that lift this from a good pop album to a great pop album. Continue in this vein, and Arthur Beatrice are surely destined for bigger and better things. Mind you, they've probably already planned that out.

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