Monday, January 4, 2010

The Gig Worked But the Audience Survived

So Northern Portrait managed to squeeze in an album release just before 2009 came to a snowy halt. And Criminal Art Lovers will definitely be on my end-of-year list, which I haven't finished yet because I had a sneaking suspicion this album would need to be on there. It's got 9 new songs, only their hit (well I understand if people would call it that) "Crazy" is a repeat. The album opens with the grand "The M√ľnchhausen In Me" and immediately we can conclude that is the best the Danes have ever been. They even dare to introduce some glockenspiel towards the end, without tarnishing the grandeur. The song following "Crazy" at #3 is crucial to the album - it has to be of the same caliber as that, their now most recognisable tune, or the record would feel disappointing. Northern Portrait manage this commendably by putting "The Operation Worked But the Patient Died" at #4, a song frequenters of their Myspace have been able to enjoy for many months already. It is one of their slowest songs but also one of the most impressive. Another new favourite is the frighteningly titled "Murder Weapon", which jangles along at yes, a heart-stopping pace. The highlight of their live sets last summer, "What Happens Next" sounds good as well but lacks that extra boost the surprise attack of the Rickenbacker at the move into major key gave. What's this? "That's When My Headaches Begin" shows that the group is not without wit either, as Stefan sings "armed with these weapons of self-distraction" in a tender lament on the temptations of drink. The closing track "New Favourite Moment" (which we also got to hear live) winds up the album on a positive note with its exuberant picked guitar. It strikes the listener that this album, not unlike The Sundays in production, could well have been a radio staple if it had only been mixed and mastered more suitably, with a bit more low end etc. Thankfully it isn't, Northern Portrait stay just the right side of well-produced. If there's anything that needs more compression it is the collar of one's shirt.

3 comments:

String Bean Jen said...

Beautiful review though I have to disagree with the production. It sounds crystal clear and sparkling to me but then I'm not a musician. I've only had it for a few days and listened a few times so it does need more time to sink in but I am already appreciating it greatly.

Oh yes, I recall hearing 'New Favourite Moment' at last year's shows and thinking it encapsulated those times wonderfully. :-)

The Boy and the Cloud said...

yes!

perhaps i was unclear, i do think the production is pretty much perfect. i like my pop records to be trebly :)

stytzer said...

Props for a great review of a remarkable review! If you're not familiar with The Mirror Lounge (Stefan Larsen's previous band) - do check them out. Especially That's When My Headaches Begin bears some resemblance to the music of TML, which was far less indie pop influenced than NP. OH - really fine blog btw!