We don’t suggest for one moment that The Recommender is 100% successful in trying to deliver music that you’ve never heard of. That would be somewhat trite and over-confident of us, but we do try and stick to the early stuff, only focusing on artist’s debut singles, EPs and albums, as there’s not much point recommending material that people are already aware of. We want to work with emerging music and emerging artists, to help lift them into the gaze of a new audience. We were recently sent an email about an Australian band that we’d never heard of before and the email stated that they were setting up to release their “debut studio album“, so with that key word “debut” clearly listed we pressed on with our usual investigations. Sadly we discovered that this band had in fact released several albums, so it turns out that the key part in the PR statement was actually perhaps the word “studio“. It begs the question: when is a debut not a debut? When it’s not been recorded in a studio? That just seems silly, but with this band there is an explanation…
To clarify the situation we enquired further. We were informed that Circle are a four-piece band from Sydney who have been together since 2005. To begin with they were called Opanoni And The Raindrops, one of the more terrible monikers that we’ve come across in recent times, and as this outfit they self-released two albums, Stamps & Coins and EGBDF. After a (somewhat relieving) name change, to Circle – which is greatly improved, although admittedly far worse for search engine optimisation – they set about self-releasing three full lengths: Just Keep Swimming, Molasses Sandwiches and Xmas Omas. They pin every one of these albums down as simple “bedroom recordings“, choosing not to respect any of them as their debut albums proper. Its all a little dismissive, but in fairness its their music to dismiss. They’ve now recorded their new album, The Middle, inside a proper studio and are set to release it officially on August 1st via Monday Records. They’re calling it their “official debut album“, but we can’t help but feel that it’s perhaps because they’re more proud of it than the others, or like the others weren’t quite good enough, or they flopped commercially, so this is now their starting point.
We would understand if the other works were just EPs or live albums, but they’re not, so the truth is it just seems as though they’ve put out albums that they’re not very happy with. If you can’t afford a studio, or you feel a studio allows you to create the masterpiece you were always capable of, then what were the other albums, practice runs? To counter this point, who are we to decide what is their debut album? Surely, its what ever they confirm it to be, right? So long as they don’t turn around in two or three years time and declare the release of their next ‘debut’ album, if upon reflection this one doesn’t work out. So we’re standing by their explanation for now, and if nothing else they’ve earned our recommendation, because, well, this new album is pretty damn good after all. If you like your long players to contain plenty of singles and lots of wonderfully-light, well-crafted pop songs then you’ll delight at this ten-track piece of work. Debut or no debut, it’s pretty tight and very successful in its delivery.
Having Mike Stavrou on hand for the production may have indeed helped elevate them, with his experience on albums from artists such as Kate Bush, The Pretenders, Elton John, Siouxsie & The Banshees and David Bowie – not a bad roster! His engineering has produced an immaculate sound, with the combined vocals of Radi Safi and Bec Shave proving particularly sharp. Safi’s voice has a plain, flat sound, reminiscent of something akin to The Lightning Seeds’ Ian Broudie, or The Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, whereas Shave’s vocals are much lighter, giving the songs a welcome layered effect. Without the introduction of her voice the otherwise middle-of-the-road pitch that the album aims for would perhaps suffer under it’s own wetness. Like other bands, such as The Thrills (of Big Sur fame), or any other twee pop protagonists, it’s too easily dismissed as lacking any serious edges, but the truth is more that they’re playing with a positive energy, suffused with the emotion ‘happiness’, which is just as valid as the other emotions, love, pain, sadness, etc. After all, it makes sense that people would also want to write and get all creative when they’re happy.
Track titles, such as Oh My Heart, Gorgeous and I Believe, will understandably suffer the Middle-Of-The-Road tag more than most, but inside this soft set of songs is a big heart and a selection of melodies that most other bands would die for. Although with the latter you just want to punch them in the face for being so bloody positive, particularly as Safi sings, “you’re gorgeous” repeatedly, whilst Shave coos in the background. Elsewhere, tunes such as 2020 Vision, Ready To Dance and the lead single, Fashion Me A Drum, rattle things up a gear, choosing to introduce more jerked drums and slicker basslines, with the latter two introducing some fizzing electronics. It seems that they are at their best when they in fact wander off the road’s centre. All together it delivers an album with the kind of variety and depth that can so often be lost in bands writing pop this light. Sometimes it finds energy with a gas-guzzling momentum, whereas with others its found aimlessly drifting around. As much as they’ve dismissed their older albums as false starts, this debut shows us a band who are clearly learning from previous experiences. We can’t wait for debut number eight and nine. (MB)
CIRCLE – FASHION ME A DRUM
CIRCLE – 2020 VISION