Over the past few months I've begun to get really excited over a band that I'd thought I'd got over a couple of years ago. Recently, London's My Sad Captains have completely reinvented their style, dialling down the indiepop tunefulness that made up the majority of their 2009 debut, 'Here & Elsewhere'. That was the major characteristic that first brought the band to my attention, and it made that record one of my most anticipated debuts that year. When it came out, it provided me with a few months of listening pleasure, with some of the songs on it being genuinely brilliant, but I just kind of lost interest in them after a while. I didn't see them at all live in 2010, and when I saw them supporting Allo Darlin' at the Bull & Gate in May this year I was expecting them to be the same as ever.
I first heard of MSC nearly three years ago, when they did a gig at the Lexington with the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and the Manhattan Love Suicides (and apparently Horowitz, who I've got into since but to be honest can't remember from that night). The Pains would release their debut album a few months later, and it was the first time I'd seen them live, despite having had their debut EP on pretty much constant rotation for a year or so. They were astoundingly good, as were the not-much-longer-for-this-world MLS. I hadn't really got into the latter band properly by that point, and didn't know many of the songs aside from the obvious 'Clusterfuck' and 'Extra Medication', but they have grown into one of my favourite of that line of bands, and I wish I'd focused on seeing them more when they were still around.
The real revelation of the night, however, were My Sad Captains. They were, back then, very much a Fortuna Pop! band, with a guy who looked like a cross between Stephen Merchant and Graham Coxon on guitar/vocals and a whole load of absolutely lovely little pop songs that jumped straight out at you. At that point, I wasn't really aware of the London indiepop scene to the extent I am now, but I was completely won over by their lovely tunes and the boy-girl harmonies on songs like All Hat And No Plans and Bad Decisions.
The next summer, they released their debut, and it was really enjoyable, but all felt slightly predictable. It wasn't really an album that I could get massively excited by. The best songs on the record were the ones that had been around for a long time before the album was released. They didn't even put on the upbeat single mix of Bad Decisions - and I'm not going to make any obvious jokes about that - and seemed to be caught between musical directions. It got some good reviews on release, but wasn't really anywhere when critics came to look back at the year, and they seemed to get overtaken in people's affections by various other Fortuna Pop! bands.
This year, I've seen them a few times, starting with that gig at the Bull & Gate, and each time they've blown me away with the atmosphere the new songs are able to create. The way they get stuck in a groove, which wouldn't get wearing even if they did a Sister Ray and stretched each song out to 20 minutes, is just spectacular, yet they still have the pure trebly tunes to be classed as a bona fide indiepop band.
A couple of the slow-burners on the debut album foreshadowed the direction they have taken since, especially You Talk All Night, still a staple of their live show. They have become probably the primary exponent of the genre that, in private, I call 'kraut-twee'. They really have gone above and beyond anything on their debut album with some of the songs they have released recently - there's not way you could have listened to any songs on that on repeat for an hour, as I have done with the only two new tracks to be properly released onto the web, 'The Homefront Part 2' and 'Orienteers'. The latter really is one of the best songs I've heard this year, but there are many others that I've only heard live that I'm expecting to be blown away by studio versions of.
The new album, 'Fight Less, Win More' is out on November 7th, quickly followed by a release party on the 9th. I can't wait.