Release Date: Jan 20, 2017
Record label: Slumberland
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop
Listening to the calm and steady indie pop of the Proper Ornaments' second album, one would never suspect the struggle and turmoil that went into its creation. After releasing their excellent 2014 album Wooden Head, the two guys leading the band, James Hoare and Max Oscarnold, pursued other musical venues, Hoare with Ultimate Painting, Oscarnold as a member of TOY. When they got back together to work on another album, they enlisted drummer Robert Syme and bassist Daniel Nellis from their live lineup and headed into the studio.
Looked at cynically, the Proper Ornaments is a great name for a band infatuated with their record collections—a group that decorates their spare little songs with only the most finely curated influences, like so many baubles on a tree. The Beatles’ White Album here, Pink Floyd’s Meddle there. The Beta Band here, Yo La Tengo there. The Velvet Underground everywhere.
Not all bands start with a simple advert on a pin board. Take The Proper Ornaments. One day, Max Oscarnold, who mans the synths in Brighton avant-rockers TOY, walked into a vintage clothing store with a 'troubled' girlfriend. Oscarnold was asked by said girlfriend to distract the clerk so she could steal a pair of boots.
There’s a whole load of adjectives you could hurl at The Proper Ornaments’ second offering Foxhole: dreamy, hollow, pallid, limp and wishy-washy all spring to mind. But it’s endearing. Foxhole’s overall sound and vibe was created by chance rather than by any masterful technique application. Initial recordings at Hackney’s Tin Room went a little wrong after a fault with an 8-track machine.
Eking out an existence within indie music has become something of a challenge this decade. What times are these? I recently read an interview with a top 50 album charting musician, who was supplementing their income by working in a non-music related job, in-between tours. Whilst I quite like the idea of a rock star by night remaining grounded with a day job, it makes you wonder if music’s value is reflecting it’s worth.