Release Date: Mar 17, 2014
Record label: Bella Union
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Following on from their affable debut, Here and Elsewhere, and much improved sophomore effort, Fight Less Win More, My Sad Captains' third showing indicates they're progressing remarkably with each subsequent record. In Best of Times they have concocted something markedly ambitious and serenely detailed; something comfortingly familiar yet flourished with snippets of the avant-garde.
I recently read a book that changed my life. Now, I’m well aware that reads as hoary overstatement, and a glance at your record shelf will no doubt show aberrations in the collection that are testament to some hack’s baseless hyperbole. But the book in question, Quiet by Susan Cain, is powerful for its considered reliance on understatement. It’s a treatise on the power of the introvert in a world that often thinks volume is a panacea to all ills, to a society that can perversely elevate talk above action.
There’s an unmistakable dream-pop sheen to My Sad Captains’ third LP, their first on the hugely respected Bella Union imprint. A hazy, summery feel shimmers across the record’s nine tracks, evoking thoughts of label mates Beach House, whose epic soundscapes are clearly an influence. The sparse keyboards of Goodbye set the tone for an album that can, at times, feel sluggish and soporific when it’s aiming for something more blissed-out.
Just over two years on from their well-received second album, Fight Less, Win More, London-based quartet My Sad Captains return with their third album under a new label. Bella Union picked up the band, who are named after a poem by Thom Gunn, after they impressed with their second effort in 2011. It is a move that signals an intent from the band to try something new, and that becomes even clearer when listening to new album Best Of Times.
For their third record, My Sad Captains opt for a less-is-more approach, with vocals murmured and placed underneath the surface of their breathy, spatial late-evening pop. As such, ‘Best Of Times” instrumental sections resonate strongest, like on the repetition-heavy, ‘All Times Into One’ and seven-minute ‘In Time,’ their delicate, vine-like growth supported by a rigid beat. The London four-piece have never had trouble creating pretty atmospheres though; it’s contrasting them with a bolder hook, lyrical or otherwise, where they struggle.
Upon seeing My Sad Captains’ latest album title, it’s tempting and reflexive to recall the opening line of Charles Dickens’ classic A Tale Of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Be that as it may, the sentiment isn’t too far off the mark here as the band confronts head on the erosion of a relationship and the conglomerate of messy and contradictory emotions that accompany it. On Best Of Times, My Sad Captains seem to have resolved the genre-hopping from their prior outing, 2011’s Fight Less, Win More, by not really picking any one of them and running with it but, rather, returning to the drawing board and crafting a different sound all together with flecks of these previous exercises.