Sometimes we hear artists that pitch things just right. Today’s recommendation seems to have sourced their sound’s formula from some obvious contemporary peers, but by placing themselves centrally in-between their inspirations they’ve found the middle ground those others weren’t able to locate, and as a result they subsequently manage to hit the bullseye. To write music that’s both interesting and easily accessible is a difficult skill indeed – if it were easy they’d all be doing it – so only a fool would dismiss this new duo’s simple pop music at first listen. Here we have a pair with darts made so expertly, with an aim so sharp, that they’re all set to earn maximum points with everything they plan to throw our way.
The duo are known as Ink and are the creation of Colin Mac and Miriam Massie. Although they now call London home they’re originally from Scotland and Liverpool respectively. They make cute alternative pop music and the pair of influences that we find to be the most relevant references are Alex Winston, although they’re thankfully not quite as forgetful as her, and Aluna George, although they’re neither as weird or indeed quite as wonderful as that duo. To pitch at the centre ground between these opposing artists is something of a master-stroke, delivering appealing melodies at the heart of each song, whilst including enough quirk to seem otherworldly. There’s an organic, fairytale feel to the music, of a kind that rallies against today’s world of technology and futurism.
Take the debut hit in waiting, Ink Goes On, and you get a song about lovers writing to one another, as Massie melodically sings, “write me boy, with the reason why you like me now“. Not only does it hark back to a time when people actually had to write letters to communicate across distances, but it’s trying to snare the romanticism that’s found in the effort put into such a process. Sending an email could never have the same appeal between potential lovers. The duo claim that “ink is more permanent” – which is actually a pair of analogies when you think about it – but they also stretch this idea to their videos. Not only has their wonderful debut video (which accompanies the single, seen below), been filmed in a setting that pretty much ignores the fact that the world turned the millennium at all, but they also claim to write songs away from the technology of the studio, preferring to hum melodies into their dicta-phones beside a river or some such setting – although this process flies slightly in the face of their ideology, as a dicta-phone clearly removes the need for any, you know, actual pens.
Writing music that swims against the recent tidal wave of bedroom-produced, technology-led Albelton users is a refreshing change. They place romance and melody at the foundations of their music, claiming that they’re, “inspired by art and literature, almost as much as by music“, writing delightfully simple songs, with a start-middle-and-end structure. However, don’t expect to commentate on today’s economic woes, or the planet’s political disasters. This is further witnessed with tunes such as Our Song, which continues the butterfly-light touch, but it never runs out of momentum, or Control, which finds a welcomed extra gear, not only finding more confidence, as Massie asks, “have you ever seen me lose control?“, but they cleverly place a few edges where there were usually just rounded corners. In Dom Morley they have the engineer who had a helping hand in producing Amy Winehouse’s towering album, Back To Black, so once they take this stack of melodic bones into the studio they have access to an expert in fleshing songs out. This is evident in the layers that they often employ, usually starting songs with twee notes, only for them to build up to enormous crescendos at the peak of the songs.
The Great Escape website recently had them as their ‘band of the day‘, serving up a hint at a possible appearance at next May’s festival of new music. Otherwise the duo are yet to perform live, although you can expect some busy shows to crop up on the London scene between now and next Spring, as the buzz is surely too loud to make everyone wait. And the initial buzz is genuinely real, with a quick Google search throwing out online articles from sites such as, All Things Go, God Is In The TV, Killing Moon and The Guardian, with the latter’s Paul Lester claiming that, “they are, we think, going to be massive. And if they’re not, it will be the result of bad luck and timing“. A bold claim, but in line with ours.
They’re currently in talks with possible managers and remain unsigned so the debut single will have to be self-released, which they’ve confirmed is out this month. The duo have informed us that they are completing up to 25 songs that they’ve started over the last year, so you can expect a refined list of those to appear on the debut album, which has the working title Thinking Not Thinking. The signs are good and the potential definitely there, so 2013 should see them rise rapidly. If you want to make music that is both credible and commercially viable you need to master the middle ground. By all means take from the weirder ends of the pop spectrum, or challenge the mass market with imaginative ideas inspired from less-commercial peers, but by establishing a chart-friendly core Ink can expect a broader appeal then most others in their pigeon hole. As much as we believe music is most often moved forwards at it’s fringes there is something to admire when seeing a craft tuned this well. You will struggle to find an artist as attractive and appetizing as Ink in 2012. Not too hot, not too cold, just right. (MB)
INK – INK GOES ON