Why is melancholy so appealing? It’s pretty obscene to take so much pleasure from somebody’s misfortune, but we must all be awful human beings because it’s just so bloody satisfying to hear even more unfortunate souls spill their tragic lives all over moody atmospherics. This is where the music of Australian band Lowlakes comes in; over their recent debut EP they evoke the malevolent hum of Joy Division, the poignancy of The National, and even the precise eccentricity of Wild Beasts. They’re pretty tough comparisons to come anywhere close to satisfying, but Lowlakes aren’t far away at all. “Buffalo”, in particular, is a good introduction to the EP, beginning with a cocksure swagger that melts into a cry so fragile that it’s practically shattered already. It’s easy to make glum music, but tough to do it with any gravitas; Lowlakes aren’t having any problems in that area.
Just incase you hadn’t yet fallen into the destroyingly beautiful new Sharon Van Etten record, “Tramp”, then here’s a nudge into it’s vice-like grip. It’s the year’s most heartbreakingly brilliant record – crushingly honest, horribly self-referential, and as a result, absolutely compelling. She documents the turbulent end of an abusive relationship with such incredible gravitas that her lyrical content would stand its ground alone – but it’s backed by whispers of guitars and waves of noise that frame her words perfectly. It’s impossible not to sympathise with what she’s been through but, by the time the record ends, it’s hard not to feel morbidly glad that somebody made it. And that it wasn’t you.
I’m not a musician of any significance, or even a musician at all come to think of it, but from my untrained perspective it seems like flirting with a maudlin mood is a very dangerous idea. Of course, for those who it comes naturally to, like the National, it can be the source of all their success, but that’s only because they really mean it. Miss the intended level of sincerity even slightly and you end up sounding dull, contrite, calculated, uninspired and many many other depressing adjectives that are not positive at all.
And so when I heard Monument Valley’s debut EP, “Tongues”, I couldn’t help but get more than a little bit excited. More than anything, and especially on “Round and Round”, London-born Ned Younger just sounds so sincere. It’s that sincerity that makes each slightly melancholic note just more affecting, and combined with his heartfelt honesty, restraint and mastery of the understated melody, the entire EP becomes wonderfully maudlin. Like it should, it just sounds so satisfying, and to have pulled that off on a first EP is undoubtedly special. We’ll be keeping our two eyes on Monument Valley, not least because he’s just got wrapped up with those chaps at Transgressive, which can only suggest he’s got even more to offer.