Northern Portrait - Ta!

matcd066  /  December 2013
Northern Portrait - Ta!
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Northern Portrait - Ta!

matcd066  /  December 2013

A handsome collection of non-album tracks released by adored Danish band Northern Portrait over the past six years, including songs from sold out EPs, vinyl-only singles, and compilation appearances.

Northern Portrait debuted in 2008 with two very well received EPs—‘The Fallen Aristocracy’ and ‘Napoleon Sweetheart’—both of which sold out almost instantly upon release. Following their critically acclaimed debut album ‘Criminal Art Lovers’ in 2010, the band released two vinyl-only singles—the ‘Life Returns To Normal’ 7” (2010) and the ‘Pretty Decent Swimmers’ 10” (2013)—and contributed exclusive tracks to three Matinée compilations.

Ta! compiles the 15 tracks from these releases into one handy collection. The songs from ‘The Fallen Aristocracy’ and ‘Napoleon Sweetheart’ have experienced a complete revitalization with the band returning to the basic recordings, hitting the re-set button, and remixing them to bring out nuances and details that were inaudible on the initial EP releases. Early favorites ‘I Give You Two Seconds To Entertain Me’ and ‘The Fallen Aristocracy’ remind us of the thrill of hearing Northern Portrait for the very first time, while ‘Waiting For A Chance’ and ‘Our Lambrusco Days’ perfectly showcase the brilliant enhanced orchestration of the remixed versions.

Tracks from the vinyl singles and compilations have been remastered for this album and demonstrate the richness of Northern Portrait’s more recent recordings, from their especially jangling Christmas song ‘Leave The Trees Alone’ to the accomplished hits ‘Happy Nice Day’ and ‘I Feel Even Better’ from their recent 10” release.

A wonderful opportunity to revisit Northern Portrait songs from their first six years, Ta! is a cohesive album that bridges the gap until the band returns with its highly anticipated sophomore album next year. Available in a matte-finish eco-wallet with annotated tracklisting by the band.

  1. A Quiet Night In Copenhagen
  2. I Give You Two Seconds To Entertain Me
  3. I Feel Even Better
  4. Waiting For A Chance
  5. Some People
  6. In An Empty Hotel
  7. Happy Nice Day
  8. The Young and Hopefuls
  9. Sporting A Scar
  10. Our Lambrusco Days
  11. Leave The Trees Alone
  12. Bon Voyage!
  13. Greetings From Paris
  14. Stirling Moss
  15. The Fallen Aristocracy


For more than 6 years (since July 30, 2007 to be exact) Northern Portrait has occupied the softest spot in my music heart. Without overdramatizing things, I guess you can say that I’ve had a rather huge, permanent and probably at times very unhealthy crush on the band, ever since being blown away by the jangling pop sound of Crazy. Quite a feat one could say, as the total number of songs recorded (or come to our knowledge by being released) by the band amounts to 25. From a fan point of view a somewhat measly production over the band’s lifespan and since the release of the glorious debut album nearly 4 years ago, only 7 new songs have been put out (8 if you include the Some People cover, which to be pedantic was originally recorded way back in 2008). So in all fairness you can say that us fans have been given every opportunity to turn our backs on the band and fall in love with someone perhaps not as attractive, but far more reliable. Of course I can only speak on my own behalf, but I’ve done my very best to stay faithful and not let anyone else come anywhere near that soft spot. Of course I’ve been listening to lots and lots of great music by other fine artists, while waiting for news (any news will always do) from Northern Portrait. But at the same time, I’ve been nurturing my heart and made sure that The Fallen Aristocracy, Napoleon Sweetheart and Criminal Art Lovers were always within hand’s reach. So again and again I’ve been singing along about quiet nights in Copenhagen spent in empty hotels, while creating new favourite moments by letting the Münchausen in me drink Lambrusco with Stirling Moss; only to see life return to normal as my headaches begin and then spend my time waiting for a chance to commit hara-kiri with a teaspoon. Then earlier this year I felt even better, when the happy nice day arrived and we all got greetings from Paris Copenhagen, with the release of Pretty Decent Swimmers; which once again saw the band aim for guitar pop heaven. Fast forward to November and the release of the A Sunday Matinée, where, with no offence to all the other very talented contributing artists, the standout track by a mile was the band's effort The Young and Hopefuls; yet again proving that whenever Stefan Larsen decides to dust off his guitar no one really comes close to writing pop songs like he does. Now it’s December and whether it was Mr. Larsen himself or Mr. Tassos of Matinée Recordings, who came up with the idea that this year’s Christmas present to every indie pop fan inhabiting the planet should be a compilation of every non-album track recorded by Northern Portrait, I obviously can't tell. But what a grand idea it was and following the arrival of Ta! in my mailbox yesterday (along with The Matinée 45 Holiday Ornament, which my wife definitely wasn’t too impressed with) I am spending today listening and perhaps more than ever being overwhelmed by the magic pop universe created by the band. Now I can only second the hopes of A Layer of Chips that the compilation title Ta! by no means indicate a farewell and that a sophomore album will (as promised) in fact be released next year. So fast forward to 2014…   --Hits In The Car
OH! But they sound like The Smiths, don't they? Yeah, and this is their 'Hatful of Hollow'... Those good folk at Northern Portrait have seen fit to put all their b-sides and hard-to-find a-sides together on one tremulous, tremendous package, that, if it were released as a standalone record of new music, would pretty much wipe the floor with just about everything else released this year. If you can't remember where you were when you first heard the smart stomp of 'A Quiet Night in Copenhagen' or the sparkling serenity of 'I Feel Much Better' or the dark defiance of 'In an Empty Hotel' then you're missing out. 'Ta!' is the sound of the last six years of indiepop for me. So many memories are wrapped up in these glorious songs, from hearing those first two dynamite eps to wailing along to Northern Portrait when the played the indoor stage at Indietracks, and cuddling up against the cold on the settee with the stereo on full blast, to teaching my little boy the words to the magnificent 'Fallen Aristocracy'. It's all pretty special. One hopes that the title of this compilation isn't some kind of farewell - a recognition that it's all over. It's been increasingly hard for the band to get together and play anywhere at all these last couple of years. There's talk of a second album next year, which fill my heart with joy, but it's about time they graced a nearby stage again.   --A Layer of Chips
Bringing non-album tracks together as a compilation can often lead to a fans-only patchwork of material that perhaps wasn't deemed strong enough for initial release; weak B-sides, acoustic versions or live and session recordings that don't stand up to the original, but there are plenty of exceptions to the rule. Many fans (and Brett Anderson himself) consider Suede's B-sides comp. 'Sci-Fi Lullabies' to be the band's finest album. You could also look to Belle & Sebastian's 'Push Barman To Open Old Wounds' or The Stone Roses' 'Turns Into Stone' for near-faultless examples of similar collections. Perhaps a more appropriate comparison for Danish indiepoppers Northern Portrait would be The Smiths' 'Hatful Of Hollow' compilation; the Manchester heroes are, and always have been a clear influence. The cruel may say that Northern Portrait simply ram-raid The Smiths back catalogue in a Hummer and then stride off cockily with a few Mozzer/Marr B-sides, when in truth there are plenty of songs in their arsenal that pair of writers would have happily put their names to. As an album, 'Ta!' doesn't sound like a disjointed selection of tracks they've found down the back of a sofa or hidden on old demo tapes, it sounds like a complete collection of very well-written and recorded songs that easily matches their previous long-player: this is a set of songs the trio can rightly be proud of. They've never hidden their love of '80s guitar bands and nor do they do so here, but rather than pilfer bits and bobs as best they can and try and cash-in on those who wish for the days of old, they show their own talents as top-drawer songsmiths and repeatedly impress. This is aided by several of these tunes appearing in the past as singles in their own right, and also a little touching-up being done to a few early tracks, but from start to finish this is a record that has peaks, yet it doesn't have the troughs that so often go with them. The opening bars of 'A Quiet Night In Copenhagen' may have you thinking of Morrissey (or maybe even Gene or The Incredible Flight Of Birdman or anyone else who's fallen foul of that tiresome comparison), however, it will also put an immediate smile on your face, as will early track 'I Give You Two Seconds To Entertain Me' which follows it. These are songs with a freshness and a heady rush that will delight anyone who's willing to let stuffy inhibitions go. The tunes keep flowing like Champagne at midnight on New Year's Eve. 'I Feel Even Better' has a wonderful jangle and melody; 'Waiting For A Chance' does even more so; recent single 'Happy Nice Day' still sounds cracking. This could be an indication that the band are getting even better as they get set to release their second studio album next year, and for confirmation of this you need only lend an ear to the most recent song of all: 'The Young and Hopefuls' which was featured on Matinee Recordings recent fifteenth anniversary album 'A Sunday Matinee'. It would be easy to praise each of the fifteen songs here, but the best option is to simply listen without prejudice. Like anyone else, Northern Portrait have their influences, but they also have their own songs and their own talents, and on 'Ta!' they take another step towards cementing that notion in the minds of even the most cynical of listeners.   --Sounds XP
I’ve just spent a particularly pleasurable hour or so with Copenhagen’s Northern Portrait. Not actually in the direct company of the trio, Michael Sorensen , Stefan Larsen and Rune Reholt, although I’m sure that would have been lovely, but their new album, Ta!, which came out recently on the Matinee Recordings label. It’s a collection of non-album tracks from the Danish band, plotting the course over their six (going on seven) year existence, and includes songs taken from sold EPs, vinyl-only singles and from compilations. The songs from their two ep releases, The Fallen Aristocracy and Napoleon Sweetheart have been revitalised by stripping them back and remixing them to make the subtle nuances contained within a little more sharply focused. But there’s bolder orchestrations from beginning to end and tracks have been tidied up for the release of the 15 tracks record. But the particularly pleasurable bit was the music. It’s simple, Smiths-like indie pop. But it has that kick back, wiggle your toes and sip tea out of your favourite mug kind of familiarity about the whole record, the slightly wistful, but yet eternally hopeful nature of the songs just seems to fit that need to luxuriate in the comfortable. The opener has this lovely lilting quality about it, the Smiths, come Gene, come Housemartins like quality evident right from here inwards. It’s followed by fourteen more songs with similar influences, but a testament to the brilliance of Northern Portrait is that they could be from any of those bands armoury. I’ll give you ten seconds to entertain me has that sort of Morrissey humour about it, and elsewhere there’s the laid back Waiting for a Chance, the sweet In an empty hotel (albeit a little Morrissey by numbers lyrics – not that I minded that) and the Young and the Hopefuls, which smacks of Field Mice-esque Sarah records. As the album goes on, so there’s the heartbreak of Our Lambrusco Ways and the loveable Bon Voyage! amongst the pick of the tracks. But there isn’t a weak track on the record – almost amazing since this is songs that never made it as far as albums. It’s the sort of thing to sit down, relax, and gently fall head over heels in love with. And that’s what I just did. 9/10   --Backseat Mafia
Danish indie pop group Northern Portrait have built up a fine catalog of releases for the Matinée label, beginning in 2008 with a pair of EPs (The Fallen Aristocracy and Napoleon Sweetheart), then the Criminal Art Lovers album in 2010 and the Pretty Decent Swimmers EP in 2013. They also appeared on nearly every compilation the label released over that time and established themselves as one of the label's most interesting and accomplished bands. The fine collection Ta! gathers up tracks from all three of their EPs, songs that first surfaced as compilation tracks, and a cover of Cliff Richard's "Some People" that was released as the B-side of 2010's "Life Returns to Normal" single. While fans of the band, and the label, who have collected everything Northern Portrait have done may find Ta! to be a little beside the point, anyone wanting an overview of their music will find it a useful entry point to their Smiths-inspired jangle pop sound.   --All Music Guide
My favorite Danish band only has one full-length album, but Northern Portrait has kept busy through the years with a bevy of EPs, singles and slots on compilation albums. I have tried my best to keep up, but a few songs slipped away before becoming tough finds. 'Ta!' has filled all of those holes in my collection. I do, however, miss having all of those brilliant picture sleeves. At least I can continue my search while listening to these great tunes. Oh, and that sophomore full-length album is slated for a 2014 release!   --Linear Tracking Lives (Favorite Reissues of 2013)
Released this month, Northern Portrait have a new compilation album out on Matinée Recordings entitled Ta!. The album consists of tracks from the band’s previous EPs as well as tracks previously only available on other compilations, including a cover of Some People by Cliff Richard, which was originally released on Rewind 320. For those of you not already acquainted, Northern Portrait are a Danish indie guitar pop band that formed in the summer of 2007 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Currently, they are signed to Matinée Recordings in the U.S. and will be releasing their second full length album on the label, next year. Safe to say that if you love The Smiths, The Housemartins, The Crookes, The Sundays and such, you’ll probably love this as well. This compilation or any of their releases on Matinée are an excellent place to start. You can hear more tracks by the band on their SoundCloud page and you can purchase both physical releases and high res drm free mp3 downloads on the Matinée Records website. Ta!   --Squares
Reading over these pages I’ve written about Northern Portrait too many times to count, and as long as music keeps coming my way, I’ll keep that up. I was really excited over the weekend when Matinee Recordings announced they’d be putting together a compilation album of the band’s sold out Eps, singles, and rarities; it’s titled Ta!. A lot of these I wasn’t able to get my hands on, so I’m happy that I’ll have some way to hold onto such great tunes. Fortunately for you, this might be your introduction to the band, which will make you revisit everything the band has accomplished to date.   --Austin Town Hall
Assume you have a pop fan on your list that you haven't covered yet, despite the fact that it is already Christmas Day. I'm thinking of someone who will appreciate high quality pop that is a bit out of the mainstream. Despite your tardiness, you can quickly rescue your reputation with Ta!, a collection of tracks not previously released on albums by Denmark's Northern Portrait. Selected from singles and EPs from the last six years, the album reveals the band to be one of Scandinavia's premier pop outfits. The songwriting, vocals and performances all reflect wit and craftsmanship. Sample the album with "The Fallen Aristocracy". You also can listen to a four song sampler below. I think there is a good chance you will conclude that the pop fan who merits this last minute present is you. Northern Portrait is based in Copenhagen. The members of the band are Michael Sorensen, Stefan Larsen, and Rune Reholt. Their style of jangling instrumentation and strong, soulful vocals reminds me of The Housemartins, although they draw comparisons to The Smiths as well, largely due to the vocals. This is Matinee Recordings' second release for Northern Portrait this year, following the EP Pretty Decent Swimmers   --When You Motor Away
This is a sampler of tracks from the new Northern Portrait album "Ta!". To be honest it's not really a new album at all but a collection of fifteen tracks taken from the Danish band's singles, EP's and compilations. There's a good chance you might have forgotten how good Northern Portrait are so have a listen to the tracks below and give yourself a refresher. Ta! will be released next week on Matinée Recordings and can be purchased here. Northern Portrait suggest they will attack us sometime next year with a new album. I look forward to that.   --Burning World
‘Ta!’ es una exquisita recopilación de singles y EPs más canciones esparcidas en recopilatorios que ha publicado este maravilloso grupo danés durante los últimos seis años. NORTHERN PORTRAIT debutaron en 2008 con dos preciosos EPs, ‘The fallen aristocracy’ y “Napoleon sweetheart ep’, ambos ya descatalogados. Tras su único álbum hasta la fecha, ‘Criminal art lovers’ (2010), el grupo publicó dos singles en vinilo: un 7” titulado ‘Life returns to normal’ (2010), y un 10” llamado ‘Pretty decent swimmers’ (2013). Las canciones de los dos primeros EPs han sido nuevamente mezcladas para la ocasión, consiguiendo un sonido brillante, acorde con su propuesta musical. También se han incluído las canciones que los daneses han aportado a tres recopilatorios del sello. Un delicioso aperitivo con quince delicatessens mientras esperamos ansiosos su segundo larga duración.   --El Planeta Amarillo
Delizia di fine anno targata ovviamente Matinée Recordings, che sotto il nostro albero addobbato ci fa trovare la compilation "ta!" dei danesi Northern Portrait, ricca di tutte le perle melodiche che il gruppo non ha inserito nell'album d'esordio. Il materiale ovviamente non è certo poco, contando gli Ep d'esordio, il 10", b-sides e canzoni inserite in altre raccolte. Per l'occasione poi i primissimi brani del gruppo subiscono un processo di "svecchiamento", venendo ri-registrati con un nuovo arrangiamento. Il jangly-pop del favoloso gruppo scalderà le nostre fredde serate invernali, grazie alla dolcezza incantevole di Stirling Moss o al piglio travolgente di Happy Nice Day, passando ovviamente per altre 13 fotografie guitar-pop che testimoniano il perfetto stato di salute di un gruppo già al lavoro per regalarci il secondo disco nel 2014. Non c'è bisogno di segnalare che la compilation diventa indispensabile per chiunque non conosca il gruppo, ma anche per i devoti, che si trovano tutto questo ben di Dio su un solo disco, con la piacevole soluzione di alcuni brani riarrangiati. Da avere!   --Troublezine
Uno sguardo all’indietro, al proprio pur breve passato, con il sottile spirito di endemica nostalgia che pare connaturato a ogni buon protagonista indie-pop che si rispetti, ma anche non senza un briciolo di ironia, a cominciare dal titolo prescelto: “Ta!” è infatti la raccolta di una serie di brani compresi in singoli ed Ep nei sei anni di attività della band danese. L’operazione ricognitiva del percorso della band che nell’indie-pop recente ha fedelmente rispolverato la lezione degli Smiths, così come filtrata da quelle ad esempio di Gene e Strangelove, si dipana lungo un itinerario di ben quindici brani, che trae le mosse dai primi singoli “The Fallen Aristocracy” e “Napoleon Sweetheart” (2008) per arrivare all’ultimo “Pretty Decent Swimmers” (2013). Tra melodie scorrevoli (“I Feel Even Better”) e pronunciati languori smithsiani (“Waiting For A Chance”, “In An Empty Hotel”) si ritrova integralmente l’arsenale espressivo che han imposto la band danese alle attenzioni degli appassionati del pop d’autore e dell’etichetta californiana Matinée, come sempre una garanzia nel settore. L’evoluzione nella continuità seguita dai Northern Portrait in questi anni è attestata dalla sostanziale mutazione alla quale sono stati sottoposti proprio i pezzi tratti dai primi singoli, riportati alle loro strutture essenziali e nuovamente mixati, nonché da “The Young And Hopefuls” – al momento ultima testimonianza della band, inclusa nella compilation celebrativa “A Sunday Matinée” – e dalla canzone natalizia jangly “Leave The Trees Alone”. L’accresciuta densità del suono e il più pronunciato impatto delle chitarre, tratto in linea di massima comune al percorso della band, non disperde tuttavia la leggerezza agrodolce delle canzoni che al di là di ogni nostalgia per gli evidenti modelli di riferimento hanno affermato quella dei Northern Portrait tra le proposte più brillanti dell’indie-pop di questi anni. In tal senso, una raccolta come “Ta!” non solo aiuta a mettere ordine tra le pubblicazioni di durata inferiore all’album, ma soprattutto può fungere da valido biglietto da visita della band danese per chi fosse incuriosito a scoprirla sotto una prospettiva temporale che copra in sintesi tutta la sua attività.   --Music Won't Save You