Friday, June 17, 2016

Little My's Last Beeps

For a brief period in the mid-to-late noughties, it seemed like the surest route to indie acclaim was simply to form a band consisting of as many members as you could find. Groups like Los Campesinos! (7 people), Architecture in Helsinki (8 people), and Broken Social Scene (goodness knows) proved that more sometimes is better, with albums like Hold on Now, Youngster... and In Case We Die racking up high scores with the likes of Pitchfork, Stylus et al.

My experiences with these artists (all of whom are still active, although both AiH and Los Camps have fewer members nowadays so perhaps there's been a bit of streamlining in recent years) could be mapped into a kind of family tree: I first discovered Los Campesinos! when they supported Broken Social Scene at The Point in Cardiff, and in turn, it was a support slot at a Los Camps show that first brought Little My to my attention. They were another band with a larger-than-average list of members; according to their Wikipedia entry, Little My consisted of "nine core members, with up to 21 additional satellite members at any given performance". In fact, it wasn't so much a band as it was a collective of musically-inclined people from around Cardiff, kind of like the Welsh capital's very own answer to Broken Social Scene.

'But Joel,' I hear you cry, 'why are you referring to Little My in the past tense? Didn't they release a new album, like, less than a month ago?'

They did indeed, reader - it's called Beeps. and that's the album cover up there. Here's one of its tracks, entitled It Was Christmas When I Fell Apart:

Little My originally formed on the 10th of March 2006. They split up exactly four years later, on the 10th of March 2010 (or so the story goes). They spent the intervening period playing gigs and releasing a whole bunch of EPs, but never a full-length album.

That all changed a few months ago, when Bubblewrap Collective (we like them) announced that they would be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Little My's genesis by releasing the group's much-belated debut album, Beeps, in May 2016. The album, we were told, would be a mixture of new and old material - the band even reformed for a live show at this year's edition of the Wales Goes Pop! festival.

So are Little My back for good? Well, having listened to Beeps, my guess would be a sad 'no'. It's a wonderful album, all right, packed with colour and positively dripping with gooey pop hooks, but it sounds very much to my ears like a final farewell, the full stop that the band never bothered to add when they first dissolved back in 2010.

Beeps finds Little My lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to a life support machine beside a steadily beeping heart rate monitor. Those beeps, besides serving as an explanation for the album's title, can be heard a few times throughout the album, and they bring things to a very definitive close when, at the end of closing track ...And That Was It, they flatline into a single, tragic, elongated 'beeeeeeeeep.....'

Before that exceptionally end-y ending, though, Littly My find plenty of room to relive the fun they had back in the day. Of the old tracks that were hauled out of the vaults for Beeps, Quiet Times B and All But the Beeps Meep are my favourites, although fans of the too-many-people scene I described earlier may prefer Bears in the Air (which is very reminiscent of Architecture in Helsinki) and Leaves Nothing, featuring what I'm pretty sure is a shout-out to old pals Los Campesinos! and their song Don't Tell Me to Do the Math(s).

Most interesting of all, however, are the new songs, which pick apart the Little My story and study its entrails wistfully through the lens of hindsight. "Time passed by and ruined almost everything," sings Liz Hunt on Post-Fixing. "Just tell me what we had was true." Those two lines, more than any others, could stand as the manifesto for this whole album: here's the music we all made together before time had its wicked way with us, and we've committed it to record just to prove to ourselves that it was ever real in the first place.

And then we're back to ...And That Was It, the surest sign of all that this album represents The End of Little My. In this song, we learn that bandleader Harri Davidson has been "holding on for five years", keeping the project in stasis in the vague hope that it would one day be revived. But now he's decided, with a heavy heart, that it's time to draw a thick black line under the whole thing and accept that it's over:

 "It's time we all just gave up,
We don't know what we're doing,
I'm sad,
I do not feel like talking,
I've been holding on for five years,
I do not want to let go,
I do not want to let go,
You should always leave them wanting more,
You should always leave them wanting more,
We always say too much..."


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