Could prove to be this year’s Merriweather, so dazzling is its sunny composition.
Mike Diver 2010
Last year’s Animal Collective ascent took many by surprise. Sure, the band had delivered their most accessible album to date with the year-end-list-topping Merriweather Post Pavilion, but such was the group’s cult status that their crossing over into mainstream markets – daytime radio plays, festival headline slots – was a relative revelation.
Ryan McPhun-led New Zealanders The Ruby Suns could well follow the Americans’ lead with Fight Softly. Admirably accomplished though the band’s previous long-players have been – 2008’s Sea Lion was particularly special, a candy-coated cornucopia of tropical sounds, addictive melodies and indie sensibilities – Fight Softly is, while not a game-changer, certainly a level-raiser. It glistens with pop immediacy, rollicks with breathtaking percussive interpositions, and clatters to a beat entirely of its own construct. Elements familiar to fans of F*** Buttons, Vampire Weekend, The Very Best and the aforementioned Merriweather-makers are present, but the assembly here is inspired.
With the UK gripped, still, by bitter winter, records like Fight Softly serve as welcome sunshine, brightening any day with a sonic smile so infectious that all but the most doleful of listener will come away grinning like a member of the Glee cast in full hammed-up flow. It’s simply irresistible, from the first, enticing shimmers and chirrups of Sun Lake Rinsed through to the strangely curt climax of drums-out-front closer Olympics on Pot – which, despite the connotations of its title, is a distinctly energetic number.
The stuttering shuffle of Mingus and Pike – twinkling keys atop thuds and claps that sound cut and pasted like a Flying Lotus workout – breaks for an oddly Marillion-echoing mid-section; but the track’s sunny disposition ensures the mind doesn’t regress to a grey 80s state of no return. A slow down – akin to someone leaning on a CDJ, vinyl setting active, underwater – triggers phase three of the song, where those twitchy beats return and the whole comes together to render the components just that: pieces of a bigger picture that’s impossible to look away from.
With a Chris Ofili Upper Room vividness to proceedings, there’s every chance over-exposure to Fight Softly could result in a headache – the tropicalia two-step of Cinco, African vibes of Cranberry and washed-out synth-pop of Haunted House combine to comprise a potent experience. But Merriweather’s cover alone was quite the dizzying sight, the sounds within equally dazzling, and Fight Softly deserves to be as widely recognised. Hope, then, that its makers break under-the-radar cover imminently.