In mid-October 2010, as the UK geared up for the country’s coldest December in over 100 years, an English/Spanish band burst onto the scene with a Star of Love, a folktronica album guaranteed to put the feeling back in the British public’s toes. With joyful, upbeat vocals and fantastically energetic synth, tracks like ‘In the Summer’, ‘Plage’ and ‘I Love London’ evoked the atmosphere of the Spanish summer in an English context. Traditional Basque instruments surged through the electronic sounds to forge a wonder-filled unstoppable force of pure happiness. Despite the ice on the roads and the chill in the air, Crystal Fighters were delighted to invite the whole of the UK to “come to the plage with me”. The album encouraged listeners to maintain their optimism in the face of the weather, and thousands of fans braved the cold to get to the band’s sold-out headline tour of the UK.
They may be French instead of Spanish, and owe their sound more to Phoenix’s guitars than Crystal Fighters’ txalaparta (a wooden xylophone-like percussion instrument played by two people standing face-to-face), but Concrete Knives’ newly-released debut album, Be Your Own King, is guaranteed to make the sun rise in your soul. Just look how blue the sky is on that album cover! Oxford’s a cold place this time of year (and most times of year as far as I can tell as a first-year) and there are few better ways of warming up than turning up the central heating, wrapping yourself in a rug and dancing around your room to this friendly bunch of Frenchmen.
Opening track ‘Bornholmer’ sets the tone with frantic use of bouncy electronic melodies and a desperately infectious beat accompanied by earnest and optimistic vocals. Even without lyrics ‘Roller Boogie’ is the most unstoppably summery song on the album, veering at will between sleepy tunes which conjure up images of sunbathing in the back garden to delightfully energetic electro riffs which will instantly transport you forward to that festival you’re so looking forward to. Yes, there’s not a whole lot of variation – most of the songs are quite simply fun beats leading inevitably to a hook-heavy chorus – but the album is full of enough relentless energy to sustain it through to the end. Just. Musically it’s not a particularly thoughtful album, but it’s just what you need to break the wintry apathy and get that smile back on your face.