Jake McKelvie & the Countertops

2300995778-1 Man, this album has… charm. Charm and pathos. And it has those things in that ‘first listen, immediately grabbed’ way which so few bands really manage. There are elements of Toad favourites Dolfish and Adam Balbo in here – and if you don’t know who those two are you really, really should – but it has its own personality, which I suppose is pretty crucial, given how much this kind of music relies on the awkward likability of the central character.

The extent to which that character – our narrator, essentially – is a persona or a direct translation of the main singer and songwriter I don’t know, but these things should always come across as being largely unguarded, and this is exactly what Jake McKelvie does. The music is perhaps less halting and tentative than the two bands I name-checked before, but the lyrics seem to have a rather similar stream-of-socially-awkward-consciousness flavour to them. They are

Tunes like Getting Work and Oh the Ghost remind me of that cynical friend we all have, who comes across as a right miserable bastard, but whose cynicism is more indulgent humour than genuine joylessness. At least, you suspect it is. There are elements of the excellent Charles Latham here as well, although perhaps not quite as country, but the same self-deprecating self-analysis and exasperation are definitely present.

It’s hard to analyse music like this, actually. It’s really like being introduced to a friend of a friend, and you just get on, and that’s pretty much it. The music is simple, the songs hummable, the delivery a little nasal, the lyrics excellent and basically you’ll either just like it or you won’t. There’s no pretence, no layers of coy artfulness, nothing much at all really beyond straightforward, to-the-point songwriting, and bare bones production. Easy. It’s pay-what-you-want and it’s excellent.

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