The Hermit Crabs - Correspondence Course EP

matinée 071  /  January 2009
The Hermit Crabs - Correspondence Course EP
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The Hermit Crabs - Correspondence Course EP

matinée 071  /  January 2009

Splendid new EP from heralded Scottish band The Hermit Crabs! Following impressive debut single ‘Feel Good Factor’ and album ‘Saw You Dancing’ last year, the Glasgow band spent a year sharpening its live set with shows across the UK plus an appearance at the New York City popfest. The four new songs on this EP accentuate the rich instrumentation present on earlier recordings with a diverse mix of acoustic and electric guitars occasionally embellished with distortion and present a more upbeat, poppy side to their sound.

Lead track ‘About You Before’ is a swinging number about summer relationships that boasts melodic vocals, nice orchestration, a soaring chorus and great bursts of percussion. ‘Correspondence Course’, driven by superb violin arrangements and distorted guitar bits, is another tale about the china girl mentioned on their debut single. ‘Turn The Clock Back’ is a beautifully pensive one about a breakup and the little things you miss when you’re not going out with someone, while ‘I Don’t Know How’ is a classic case of saving the best for last—an upbeat hit with a sixties vibe, surf guitars and a great singalong chorus. It’ll even have the indie hipsters dancing by the end so don’t fight it, feel it!

Well written and perfectly produced, ‘Correspondence Course’ pops and crackles in all the right places and is a fantastic step forward for the band. Limited to 1000 copies in custom minijacket sleeve.

  1. About You Before
  2. Correspondence Course
  3. Turn The Clock Back
  4. I Don't Know How


I've been listening to The Hermit Crabs' new ep Correspondence Course today. The first track is "About You Before" and I immediately wrote it down on my list of what to play on the 24th. "It's their best song so far!" I thought. Then the title track majestically enters with violin and acoustic guitars. After namedropping Lynyrd Skynyrd and This Mortal Coil, it quickly replaced "About You Before" on my list. But then "Turn the Clock Back" matches Camera Obscura's finest, and saddest moments. I reached for my pen again. But actually, the last track turned out to be my favourite Hermit Crabs song to date! A timeless pop song, and on the 24th I will help it replace "Eighties Fan" in the dance floor canon. With Matinée lighting the fuse, other labels are just canon fodder   --Heaven Is Above Your Head
You don't hear a lot of musical a-ha-moment stories, conversion narratives or even conversations in which music is an end to itself—as opposed to a gateway to friendship or romance or opportunity for personal branding—from and among girls. That might be changing, what with Lavinia Greenlaw's pointedly titled memoir ‘The Importance of Music to Girls’ and, perhaps, a song like "Correspondence Course." I wrote about Glasgow's Hermit Crabs and their delightful "Feed Good Factor" two years ago and apparently that song wasn't a fluke: The newish Correspondence Course EP is start-to-finish pop delish. "Sing me something that I don't already know" is the song's key phase, a summing-up of this kismetted meeting of music-geek minds, "have you heard" exchanges and ok, yes, flirtation. Music is personal and social, natch. But name-dropping This Mortal Coil and plotting an instrumental combo ("I'll play guitar, she'll play cello") seems to signal a certain commitment to the thing and not just the relationship wound around it. The music's fantastic, of course. Sweet violin, chugging guitar, Melanie Whittle's great girlish voice and a chorus way catchier than anything I've ever heard from Camera Obscura's camp.   --Shake Your Fist
There's a general consensus that this new ep isn't as good as The Hermit Crabs' debut record, Feel Good Factor. But I can't say I really agree. As ever, the band's songs are immaculately produced, and the exquisite opener About You Before is crystal clear. It also reminds me a little bit of Lush's later stuff, which is nice. The title track is a complete joy, and explodes at the end in a way that reminds me of The Windmills at their most powerful. Turn the Clock Back - I'm sure the band won't mind me saying - is very Camera Obscura, and is therefore extremely pretty indeed. It's also (as the title reveals) a bit of a weepy old thing. Things are pepped up again with the Housemartins-esque I Don't Know How, which, it seems to me, would be a good track to do the washing up to. It's good that The Hermit Crabs are around. In the absence of Monkey Swallows the Universe they've filled a gap in my record collection that was in danger of becoming very dusty indeed. Correspondence Course is a tiny triumph.   --A Layer of Chips
The new ‘Correspondence Course’ EP from Scotland's Hermit Crabs has become an integral companion for me as I'm beginning to welcome the Spring season back into my life. The EP (out on Matinée Records) is four tracks of sugary-sweet indiepop that seems to just cover your whole body with sunshine! The best part? Melanie's immensely catchy vocal melodies – and they're made even better against the backdrop of the bouncing, almost surf-y lead guitar. In my opinion, these guys and gals should totally be as big as Camera Obscura. Listen to "I Don't Know How" and just try not to smile!   --Skatterbrain
If your life is so stable and steady you don't know what the pull of conflicting emotions is like, count yourself lucky. Well, mostly lucky, because The Hermit Crabs probably aren't for you. Being totally happy is great. Being 100 percent angry is wonderful, and everybody is overcome with melancholy from time to time. Usually, though, you're not sitting at the end of the emotional extremes, so why do we seem to flock to music whose themes are so boldfaced and narrow-minded? The Hermit Crabs's Correspondence Course is a lesson in all those times when you just don't know what to feel. Or, as is more often the case, feel a couple things at once. There's a glimpse at post-breakup loneliness in "Turn the Clock Back," which, on its surface is a mopey tune about the contemplative moments of single-again life. Singer/guitarist Melanie Whittle jumps into the melancholy with enough sparkly guitar work and soaring vocals to bring a musically upbeat spin to the tune that makes you wonder if, underneath the morose facade, she's happy to be free, happy to be sad or just putting on a happy face. The title track, a sequel of sorts to "China Girl" from the band's Feel Good Factor EP, bubbles with a sugar-buzz rush of long-distance love, though Whittle peppers the tune with enough introspective melodies to remind us of the longing that also comes with a love-letter romance; the band's trademark violin sneaks just enough melancholy into the underside of the mix to underscore that loneliness. "I Don't Know How" once again gets introspective, though there's enough up-tempo sugar to close out the EP on an up note. Following up 2007's Saw You Dancing with the act's most intricate arrangements to date, the Crabs are a wonderful ball of confusion on Correspondence Course. "I Don't Know How" melds electric and acoustic guitars into a fully textured pop classic, while "About You Before" lets the full band -- electrics, acoustics, bass and violin -- all get in on crafting the melodies. The Hermit Crabs are quickly growing beyond their modest bedroom-pop roots, and Correspondence Course is all the richer for it. Life's rarely clear-cut. Emotions are usually tangled. That works out for the best for The Hermit Crabs, who use all life's simultaneous ups and downs on their latest EP. At least pop fans can be confident in knowing you'll be 100 percent into this EP.
Glasgow, Scotland’s The Hermit Crabs are an indie-pop band, pure and simple. But as pure as their music is, the brilliance of it is that it’s not so simple. This is not a lo-fi affair, as so many bands have done before with pretty vocals, a poppy beat, and some simple guitar. There’s plenty of lush instrumentation here, a nice mix of acoustic and electric guitars, and excellent production, giving each song – even the simple and pretty ones – a rich luster. The band’s new EP opens with a blissfully pure dose of pop. “About You Before” features gorgeous female vocals, a light rhythm, some stirring violin, and just a hint of retro-minded guitarwork that gives the song an instantly classic feel. The title track is a bit more creative, reminding me of some of the 80s pop bands like Aztec Camera and The Field Mice until a nice little guitar solo comes in, grounding it nicely in modern pop. “Turn the Clock Back” is the requisite slower song, a kind of hip-swaying slow, while “I Don’t Know How” brings back the head-bobbing pop feel with lo-fi pop sensibility: guitar, drums, and vocals are all you need. Matinée has proved time and time again that the indie-pop genre is universal. It doesn’t matter where the band is from – if the talent is there, you’ll enjoy it. Fans of light, poppy music will enjoy The Hermit Crabs undoubtedly, but what makes this band so unique in its instrumentation and production will surely give this band an even wider audience. Nice stuff, and a nice development from the band’s debut full-length.   --Delusions of Adequacy
The Hermit Crabs’ new EP presents the perfect mix of sweetness and melancholy, within breeze, bouncy, melodic music. Lead singer Melanie Whittle has a way of sounding sad even when singing upbeat lyrics, like the opening line to the first song, “About You Before” – “have you every felt this good before?” On that song, the music has a certain sternness, but with gentle strings that form sensitive support. It’s a young love story. She sings, “don’t let me down”, and you know that letting-down either will or has happened. In “Correspondence Course” the relationship seems less prone to disappointment, but you never know. Here the mystery and emotions of music are the bond of the relationship: “play me something that I don’t already know.” Possibly the first indie-pop song to run the band names Lynyrd Skynyrd and This Mortal Coil together in a lyric, its musical pleasures are as strong as those detailed in the lyrics. There’s a great guitar-solo-led surge towards the end. Within this compact EP of four well-built pop songs, there’s a storyline of the past, of relationships…one summed up by the last song’s lyrics about “time-honored reasons for loving and not leaving.” The song, “I Don’t Know How” starts with promises and then the breaking of them. The most upbeat-sounding song, it offers awe at the ways heartbreak does not upend love: “cold-hearted lovers get warm under covers / I don’t know how.”   --Erasing Clouds
Ever since Belle and Sebastian first caught the world’s attention more than a decade ago, Glasgow has been something of a centre for acoustic indie pop groups. When one such band California Snow Story (a group started by former Camera Obscura member David Stirling) took a few years sabbatical after the release of its fabulous first EP, 'One Good Summer' on Shelflife, their drummer Melanie Whittle decided that she wanted a band of her own, and...voila!...the Hermit Crabs were formed. In early 2007, their debut release, 'Feel Good Factor', an EP came out on the US label Matinée, and was followed by an album, 'Saw You Dancing', in October of that very same year. Now the time has come for some new material, and this four-track EP by this Glaswegian foursome is, I presume, a taste for what’s to come later this year. And it’s looking good, I must say. I should admit that I have totally missed out on this band before, even though their label is one of my all-time favourites, so 'Correspondence Course' is my first acquaintance with them. As the band is related to California Snow Story, it will come perhaps as no surprise that they sound like… well, California Snow Story. Or Camera Obscura, for that matter. It is a bit predictable maybe, but good nonetheless. I’m looking forward to the next album, and in the meantime I will check out the first one.   --Pennyblack Magazine
Beneficiaries of a Glaswegian fey-pop habit, the members of The Hermit Crabs sound plaintive even when they’re addressing subjects that are not plaintive at all: they have an innate plaintivity that comes mainly through their singer, Melanie Whittle—who has a delivery like a fine-haired brush stroking a drum—and partly through jangly guitars, a streaky violin, and an overall musical amiability. This is music that never races ahead, never pounds at you, it’s always by your side, one arm around your shoulder, making sure that you can keep up and that you’re having a nice time. This is their third release and their second EP, comprising a set of four songs that were not included on their last disc, the one full-length release in their discography, 2007’s Saw You Dancing. They’re appreciated on the live circuit, and will likely appeal to people who like the Lucksmiths, though they don’t have the other band’s way with words.   --Pop Matters
The lead track on this EP, About You Before, reminds me of a delicate Belle and Sebastian, it has some beautiful strings and a lovely rhythmic chippy melody. It doesn’t grab you greatly but does enough to leave a cute impression. The title track is much better, surfing an orchestral backing which gives the relaxed pop a much better kick. A beautiful guitar break appears on this too, before a vocally reflective moment and a grandiose ending. Turn The Clock Back is better still, minimal backing letting the cute beauty of the voice shine through, the song shuffling by in a maudlin sadness that makes you cry. Final track I Don’t Know How is as chirpy as some of those great female fronted indie pop groups of yore and has a tremendously catchy chorus. A fine EP indeed.   --Russell’s Reviews
Of course, a band with a cute name from Glasgow who play clean-guitar string-augmented pop songs with a female vocal is going to draw a thousand comparisons. This, fair as it often is, sees so many critiques ignoring the simple pleasures this kind of music can bring us. If you excel in this unfashionable (is it now so unfashionable that it’s become fashionable again? Maybe it’s on the way out again…) then you’re almost bound to securing a small audience of die-hards, and The Hermit Crabs really deserve one. Sensible songs, all delivered in laconic lilt and with the occasional neat string arrangement will always gain acclaim. The bounce of Turn The Clock Back is entirely worn but no less worthy - the premature influence of Traceyanne Campbell’s leathery tone hanging heavy - a delight full of regret and reflection. “Been laughing at jokes too loud, been working extra hours…” it’s all complicit with the paradigm of wistful pop success. The title track executes a lighter trick, sidelining the wist for defiance and a sparkier arrangement. All of it is imbued with simple pleasures, the sort than can come only from extended twanging solos and bar-chords played with the top two strings left open. Elsewhere is nothing but the same simple pleasures, no wasted spaces and no unnecessary flab. Utterly fine from start to finish. Should you wish to hear how splendid some of the sounds are on this EP, visit Matinée.   --Pop Musicology
En ocasiones los discos crecen, primeras escuchas que dan como resultado una inicial indiferencia, se ven sucedidas en el tiempo por el repentino descubrimiento de las bondades de unas canciones que van desplegándose ante nosotros como si de una flor tardía se tratase. Pero no siempre hay iniciales desencuentros, un disco puede entusiasmar desde la bondad de su apariencia, y aún así ir acrecentando su conquista poco a poco, mostrándose mucho más rico conforme cohabita con nosotros. Las canciones de The Hermit Crabs, como las de cualquier otro grupo, pueden gustar o disgustar cuando nos acercamos a ellas, pero lo que es seguro es que terminarán convenciendo a todo aquel que se moleste en dedicarles el tiempo, poco en realidad, que requieren para su correcto disfrute. Y es que para muchos el cuarteto escocés juega con algo en su contra, el de su aparente parecido o similitud con la música de otros muchos compatriotas deslumbrados por Belle & Sebastian. Esa apariencia inofensiva que reviste su música, esa bondad y amabilidad común a la facción más edulcorada del Indie Pop, muchas veces lleva al error hacer pasar por liviano algo que no lo es. Y es que The Hermit Crabs, aún en su pequeñez, emulan a la perfección a esos primos mayores lejanos que son Camera Obscura, a los que igualan en la búsqueda la melodía y persiguen en el cultivo del detalle, y por supuesto superan y dejan atrás con gran facilidad a California Snow Story, la antigua banda de Melanie Whittle, cantante y compositora principal del grupo. Quizás sea la música de la anterior banda de Melanie la que más cerca queda de su actual grupo, pero la continua inquietud que encontramos en The Hermit Crabs todavía no ha hecho mella en California Snow Story, que queda como una simpática banda creadora de bonitas canciones, pero no trasciende más allá. Correspondence Course supone la tercera referencia de The Hermit Crabs, precedida por Feel Good Factor Ep, debut en Matinée Recordings, y por su Lp Saw You Dancing, no hace más que acrecentar la devoción a la banda que éstos nos hicieron profesar. Correspondence Course presenta cuatro nuevos temas alojados bajo un diseño de deliciosa portada que desde ya mismo se ha convertido en nuestra favorita de los últimos meses. Como decíamos al principio del comentario, hay veces en las que nuestra opinión sobre un grupo cambia radicalmente con el tiempo, en otras ocasiones, como las que nos ocupa, nuestra afición y simpatía aparecen desde un primer instante, y tan solo queda ir acrecentándola con el tiempo. Estas cuatro nuevas canciones de los Glasgow han conseguido que rescatáramos de inmediato sus trabajos anteriores, ansiosos por volver a escuchar más canciones después de volver a quedar prendados con el nuevo material. About You Before quedará desde ya mismo entre lo mejorcito del repertorio de The Hermit Crabs, ese comienzo combinando acústicas y eléctricas que darán paso a la preciosa voz de Melanie Whittle no puede más que augurar minutos de diversión, pero ésta se ve superada al instante por ese violín, o más bien orquestación completa, y coros que hacen que una pequeña tonadilla de Indie Pop inofensivo crezca hasta el infinito, superando los tópicos de la etiqueta y haciendo que no podamos dejar de escucharla. Correspondence Course tiene la responsabilidad de dar título al disco, respondiendo con timidez al papel asignado y destacando de nuevo un violín que es gran parte del tema, la melodía y voz vuelve a brillar a gran altura, quedándonos con una parte final que da protagonismo a las guitarras. A continuación Turn The Clock Back nos presenta un calco de esas canciones en las que Tracyanne Campbell se encuentra tan cómoda en Camera Obscura, lánguida y perezosa (sosa en el caso de la cantante de CO) parece el complemento perfecto para lo que un Ep. siempre debió ser, uno o dos temas estrella y alguna miniatura para completar. Regla que aquí no se cumple al cerrar una I Don’t Know How que puede ser de todo menos tema de relleno (desprovisto el término de ningún ánimo peyorativo), invitando si no al baile, si es que te resistes, sí a seguir su contagioso ritmo sesentero que no deja de depararnos satisfacciones, alzándose con el título de tema más juguetón del todo el disco y prolongándose hasta una duración de casi cinco minutos que pasan en un suspiro. Que una banda se atreva a cerrar un pequeño Ep, con su reducida difusión, con un tema de semejante calidad, dice mucho de lo que se cree capaz de hacer, y en verdad este disco roza el sobresaliente sin ningún tipo de rubor. Hay que rendirse ante un grupo entrañable que empieza a contar cada uno de sus trabajos como un acierto pleno, superando todo tipo de comparaciones que queramos realizar, y demostrando una personalidad propia con una música que no por presentar siempre un gesto afable se ve tentada de caer en lo fácil, muy al contrario The Hermit Crabs parecen empeñados en ir enriqueciendo su sonido con cada nuevo disco que llega a nuestras manos, dejando tras de sí pequeñas joyas como este Ep. que se está convirtiendo en nuestra escucha imprescindible de las últimas semanas.   --360º de Separación