We are often wary of band names with too much punctuation. The frustration perhaps peaked at Chk Chk Chk (or !!!) so in fairness these unnecessary additions to bands’ monikers have been appearing long before Look, Stranger! Alongside this blog we also contribute to The Brighton Source Magazine and our editor recently emailed everyone stating that “Exclamation marks are straight out banned from now on. You should be able to express excitement without them“. We couldn’t agree more, but when it comes to this new four piece from London we’re tempted to re-examine our box of grammatical emotions.
Look, Stranger! are at a relatively early stage, still unsigned and self-produced, but they already seem to be reaching skywards. They drift without resistance, as if floating in space in the same way Roxy Music and David Bowie used to at their most effortless, but before you rush for the play button the gap they’re actually bridging is perhaps between the likes of the more recent Wave Machines and Reptar. They’ve created a set of architecturally well-designed tunes that achieve the difficult balance between being ostentatious and well-mannered. It’s like they’re crooning at you without ever getting meretricious, or threatening to steal your girlfriend.
They’ve been together for a couple of years and even tested the water with an un-promoted EP about 18 months ago, but they informed us that they’ve grown and changed since then, stating that the new If You’re Listening EP, due out on 13th June, is their debut proper. In all honesty this new EP shows off a level of extraordinary skills, ultimately suggesting that they’ve always been wise beyond their years. This honed craft is perhaps a result of them having all previously performed in bands which included the likes of Charlie Fink, Laura Marling and Marcus Mumford. However, nu-folk this most certainly isn’t.
What you get here is one of the most consistent pop EPs that we’ve heard all year, which will have you enjoying the troughs just as much as the peaks. Like the recently Recommendered (sic) Real Fur they have a sunny, shimmering disposition, which flows along on a set of bobbing bassline journeys, like a paper boat on a mountain stream. We even found ourselves whistling along to Look Around Now before we had even finished the first listen. In fact, the falsetto vocals from Tim Sheinman that appear throughout all four tracks are so clean it’s like Nasa have been polishing them and as the echo button is introduced they achieve the weightlessness that becomes the signature of the whole EP.
We’re not sure where Dance Away comes from or where it’s going but it’s a journey worth jumping on board to, as it’s train-track beat steams along. The same falsetto vocals appear, but this time more sparingly yet with no less impact. There’s no drum kit involved here, but where electronics replace traditional instruments there’s no lack of authenticity.
On the track Wade Out Tim sings “I’m not where I want to be“, but it’s so warm, lush and inviting that we can’t imagine immersing ourselves in anything more welcoming, giving the kind of neat juxtaposition between words and sounds that show off a seriously mature level of song writing. It’s a piece of melancholy storytelling without being hard edged or scary. It’s comfortable and dream-like, whilst singing of tension and disappointment. It is big and it is clever.
Away from this EP the track Where The Horses Roam brings us the familiar mixture of charming, rubbery music that bounces and swings as fantastically as the others. Their ability to paint with music continues as they build up theatrical layers, introducing instruments as they arrive on stage like a set of your favourite characters. Usually we find that bands who decide to include too many bars of them singing “whoa, whoa, whoa” a little grating, but somehow this group manage it with such imagination that you find yourself whoa-ing along.
They’re as multi-layered and thought-provoking as any of their contemporaries, but in place of the commonplace fried computers is set of gravity-defying marshmallows. This fantastic EP is available to stream in full on their Bandcamp, with the title track If You’re Listening available to download for free, plus you can catch them live at a handful of London shows throughout the next few weeks. In conclusion we think it’s fair to mention that this was one critique for which the hardest challenge proved to be completing it without any exclamation marks. At least The Brighton Source Magazine will be happy. (MB)
LOOK, STRANGER! – IF YOU’RE LISTENING
LOOK, STRANGER! – DANCE AWAY
LOOK, STRANGER! – LOOK AROUND YOU