With less than a week to go before the winner is announced, I've still got three Welsh Music Prize-nominated albums left to ponder. My little listening expedition will end next week with stuff from Little Arrow and Georgia Ruth; in the meantime, let's get stuck into Trwbador's self-titled LP.
"I've got a dirty mind, you've got a dirty mouth." I had this mental image of Trwbador as a sweet, childlike little outfit - all toy pianos and lullabies - but that happy little daydream is called into serious question within the first few seconds of Carpet Burns. Of all the myriad ways to kick off an album, I did not expect Trwbador to start with a reference to cunnilingus. At least, that's what it struck me as; I don't know, perhaps those dirty kids from Cars Can Be Blue have left me corrupted and overly eager to jump to perverted conclusions.
Fear not, though, because the toy pianos show up before too long and they're really rather nice. The aforementioned opening track gets things underway with some surprisingly squelchy synthesisers, but what comes afterwards is far closer to the Trwbador I remember from last year's Swn Festival (blimey, that was almost a full twelve months ago now). That means chopped-up acoustic guitar, the occasional glockenspiel, and electronic beats that sometimes sound harsh but never sound mean. After Carpet Burns (which, for all of its eyebrow-raising potential, is actually a really good track) we get Lluniau, which pretty much encapsulates the Trwbador sound I described above, as well as the eighties-influenced Safe and the playfully experimental Red Handkerchiefs. Oh, and Sun in the Winter, which is outstanding:
Trwbador's first five tracks are pretty much beyond reproach as far as I'm concerned; the lyric-writing sometimes gets a little...daft, but the stuff about how Angharad Van Rijswijk has 'holes in every sock' doesn't detract from one's enjoyment of the songs.
Regrettably, the second half of the album doesn't float my boat quite so readily. It still has its high points - most notably Mountain, the album's most danceable moment - but at least two and quite possibly three of those five tracks feel a little aimless, a little too inconsequential. I'm all for a bit of musical messing around, and a couple of instrumental tracks never hurt anyone, but it's better to sprinkle those bits strategically throughout the album than to lump them all together on Side B. Some slightly shrewder sequencing wouldn't have gone amiss here, because it seems like most of the big ideas are over and out of the way by half time. Sun in the Winter needs to be on the other end of this album, for starters; it sounds too climactic for a track three.
So...is it better than Furniture?
Mm, no. I feel like this is a kind of primordial release for Trwbador, and what really interests me is what they might do with album number two (this is their debut, right?) Having set out their slightly avant-garde take on Orange advert music here, they'll either use that sound as a springboard for weightier, more fully-realised songwriting...or they'll take an even sharper left turn and get down to some serious studio tinkering. Either way, I reckon it'll be excellent.
Only two albums left, and then we *finally* get a winner. Exciting times, people! Have a good weekend.