The Hermit Crabs - In My Flat

matcd073  /  November 2015
The Hermit Crabs - In My Flat
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The Hermit Crabs - In My Flat

matcd073  /  November 2015

Outstanding new album from respected Scottish act The Hermit Crabs! Recorded mostly in Boise, Idaho, the album features lead songwriter and vocalist Melanie Whittle in collaboration with Jeremy Jensen and Jake Hite of indie favorites The Very Most.

Lead track ‘Bravado and Rhetoric’ is a tale of punk rock gigs put on by girls—two minutes of magnificent guitars, chugging drums, and ace harmonies and one of the catchiest Hermit Crabs songs written to date.

‘I’m A Fool’ is a pensive story of unrequited love that showcases crystalline vocals, intricate guitars, and excellent harmonies all building to multi-layered perfection, while ‘High Maintenance’ details the cons of a long distance relationship and ‘Should I Drop You Off?’ is a simply gorgeous tune with splendid vocals and a wailing pedal steel guitar providing a distinct country vibe.

‘Tracey Emin’s Bed’ is a brilliant number about a depression that led to a scene similar to that portrayed in the celebrated art installation by the British artist in the song’s title. The twinkling keyboards, tambourines, and rich percussion serve as great contrast to the song’s powerful lyrics.

Meanwhile, ‘Stuart Murray’ is a catchy, two-minute pop hit about another famous artist. It’s infectious, upbeat, witty, and undeniably swinging and will be stuck in your head for days. ‘Damage Control’ revisits relationship troubles in a dark and brooding tale that builds to psycho string madness, and the album concludes with a quick, jaunty narrative of infidelity called ‘Did I Tell You That…?’

Demonstrating truly impressive songwriting, exquisite vocals, and classic orchestration, ‘In My Flat’ is the consummate release from The Hermit Crabs and another absolute gem for Matinée.

  1. Bravado and Rhetoric
  2. I'm A Fool
  3. High Maintenance
  4. Should I Drop You Off?
  5. Tracey Emin's Bed
  6. Stuart Murray
  7. Damage Control
  8. Did I Tell You That...?


The Hermit Crabs also explored matters temporal on their last release, “Time Relentless”, part of a discography which has also been building for around a decade, even if we only really started to warm to them, thanks in part to a tip-off from our old friend Sam, around the time of their “Correspondence Course” EP. The band therefore made their bow in these pages a mere six and a half years ago, though you mightn’t have spotted it given that it was in the middle of a novella-long reverie inspired by filthy-mouthed lost Bristol punk legends Chaotic Dischord. It happens. Now, we find that the Hermit Crabs impress us more with each new release, just like the Would-be-Goods did: but just like the WBGs, we can't quite nail whether they are really ever-improving, growing subtly better with every record, or whether they’ve always been this brilliant and it’s us who are belatedly getting used to them, finally learning to appreciate them properly. “In My Flat” was mostly recorded not in anyone’s flat, as far as we can tell, but in Boise, Idaho, which lends it an exotic flavour straight off, though we should emphasise that there’s nothing here that fans of the previous EPs shouldn’t lap up. This time around, there are also members of the Very Most in tow, but don’t let that put you off, because the instrumentation makes a telling contribution to the purpose and flow of this record, a record that feels sprightlier at times than “Stuck In The Never Ending Now” (reeling off a petite eight tracks in a mere 20 or so minutes), though it has its own fluctuations of tempo and timbre. Difficult to know where to start, but with a dim memory of a sometime trip to Charles Saatchi's floating around, we’ll go for “Tracey Emin’s Bed”, a song of hit single quality if ever we’ve heard one. It captures songwriter and singer Melanie Whittle’s gift for combining a certain humour and whimsy with hints of real sadness: the uptempo jollity of the piano and guitars determinedly grates against the protagonist’s depression and loneliness (the latter theme also examined in the musically more contemplative “I’m A Fool”). Otherwise, we’ve developed a special fondness for “Should I Drop You Off?” a tearjearking tour de force that benefits hugely from a mournful country twang and steel pedal vibe, but if that doesn’t sound like your staple diet please don’t fear, because the tumbling melodic cascades of “Stuart Murray” show how they have the whole pop-perfect thing all wrapped up (that Sauciehall Street ‘feel good factor’ hasn’t dissipated just yet), as do the jinglingly fresh opening and closing tunes “Bravado and Rhetoric” (lovely guitars, cooing backing vocals, P.U.N.K. girl theme) and “Did I Tell You That…?” (lovely everything). A modern Matinée classic.   --In Love With These Times...
Over about nine years now the Hermit Crabs have released some great EPs and now two great albums. They may sound like a band, but it’s essentially Melanie Whittle of Glasgow, Scotland, and whoever is making music with her at the time. For this eight-song album, that “whoever” lives in Boise, Idaho: Jeremy Jensen and Jake Hite of the Very Most. Their diverse contributions do give this a different feeling than past Hermit Crabs records, but at the center of it all is Whittle’s singing and songs. Here there’s one letter to a loudmouth and then seven songs to get to the real heart of the matter: heartbreak’s aftermath. Feeling like a fool, feeling like a sculpture who’s alone at home doing nothing in particular, feeling confused and regretful and sad and like you have more time on hand than you want to. All of that is articulated cleverly and sweetly, within great little bouncy, fun and bittersweet indie-pop songs.   --PopMatters (Best Indie Pop of 2015)
Scotland forever. The nation that’s given the world Altered Images, Postcard Records, The Associates, Edwyn Collins, the Cosmic Rough Riders, et al just keeps on giving, with two new releases from Matinée Recordings. The Hermit Crabs, from Scotland’s soul capital, have an American link, having spent a lot of time in Boise, Idaho. It was there that ‘In My Flat’ was recorded, however, that was three years ago, and it wasn’t till the Scottish summer this year that it was mixed and mastered. Hopefully the band can explain the delay. ‘In My Flat’ is a sombre album, also with gloriously deft vocals by Melanie Whittle (there was a Scottish runner called Brian Whittle, who ran like fuck in the relay in a major champs with one shoe to get Britain a medal, wonder if he’s a relation). There’s stories of unrequited love, such as that on ‘I’m A Fool’ while ‘High Maintenance’ is a tale of the difficulties imposed by a long-distance love affair. There’s a touch of country music on ‘Should I Drop You Off’ which won’t be to everyone’s taste. And there’s namechecks for Tracey Emin, who I can’t be bothered explaining, and Stuart Murray, a Glaswegian artist, one of whose books In Pubs takes up a fair bit of the second tier of a bookshelf in the Porky abode. The critics will inevitably dub this album as treading an old path, going down the same road that twee, shambling, the Monkees etc etc have all done in the past. And yes, this is quite true. But when Porky first heard The Pastels, The Shop Assistants, The Mary Chain, Aztec Camera and The Darling Buds (all from north of Carlisle other than the last one), it was ALL NEW. I’d never heard of the Velvet Underground, Vic Goddard, Love, and a multitude of other West Coast bands that were the forefathers of such melodic delights. The new/old argument is as old as the hills and won’t ever go away. Let’s celebrate this album for what it is … joyous and uplifting, and very much OF THIS DECADE.   --Porky Prime Cuts
Glaswegian musician Melanie Whittle formed The Hermit Crabs over a decade ago when California Snow Story, for whom she was the drummer, went on hiatus. Since then she's collaborated with different artists on a selection of EPs and albums, the latest being 'In My Flat' which sees her teaming up with Jeremy Jensen and Jake Hite of The Very Most (who she's also worked with in the past as part of the group Baffin Island). Although most of the album was recorded in Idaho, there's still the unmistakable sound of Glaswegian indiepop about 'In My Flat', and unashamedly so. The usual comparisons apply - this is essentially a cross between early Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura - but that's not to say it doesn't have its own merit, not in the slightest. Perhaps a little American influence has rubbed off in the lyrics to opener 'Bravado and Rhetoric' which references The Grand Canyon and the Midwest while talking about female-led punk bands, but musically you won't find much punk here; this is wonderful and slightly twee galloping indiepop with some great guitar breaks and gentle backing vocals. There's a country vibe to 'Should I Drop You Off?' with its steel guitar and brushed drums. Not for the last time, it's a song that references being an artist. The wistful 'I'm A Fool' is thematically quite typical for its genre, talking about being foolishly in love, but it's lovely with it. Sadder still is 'High Maintenance' which tells of the difficulty of being in a relationship with someone in another country, but again it glides by musically and the arrangement has the perfect balance between being minimal and more detailed and layered. It's not stadium indie and it's not lo-fi, which I guess makes The Hermit Crabs a mid-fi band. If the middle of 'In My Flat' is slower in pace and maudlin in feel then it does gradually move back towards more instantly accessible tracks. The art world pops up again on 'Tracy Emin's Bed' which finds Whittle dealing with depression that leaves her room in a similarly untidy state, but the sparkly piano prevents it from being too down. The pace jumps up a couple of notches for the jangly 'Stuart Murray' (another artist) and is jaunty, poppy and potential single material. Before we reach the end, there's another pause for thought and a slight change of style for the darker, more powerful 'Damage Control' which feels haunted and cinematic. It's maybe the most surprising and interesting tune on the album. There are a lot of tales of love gone wrong/not going well, but this is the most potent. There's a sunny and upbeat ending, musically at least, with 'Did I Tell You That?', but the confusing decisions that come with relationships play a pivotal role in the lyrics once again. 'In My Flat' may be fairly typical indiepop in sound, but the quality of the songs and the way they're arranged is more than enough to make it stand out from the crowd.   --The Sound of Confusion
The Hermit Crabs have been a revolving door of personnel around mainstay Melanie Whittle. This time around she shares the spotlight with Jeremy Jensen and Jake Hite of the Very Most, and these three have created a folksy collection that would make for the perfect soundtrack while sitting on a porch swing those summer evenings when light rain is falling and thunder is echoing in the distance. I don't know if 'In My Flat' being made in Boise, Idaho, has anything to do with that atmosphere, but it's a wonderfully understated set of songs that remind me of Exene Cervenka's more recent work. The catchy album opener "Bravado and Rhetoric" reeled me in, but the sad lament "I'm a Fool" and the country-fried crooner "Should I Drop You Off" are the ones that have decided to get comfortable in the ol' cranium. Brave and beautiful.   --Linear Tracking Lives
The Hermit Crabs are back with a new mini album that sees original singer/songwriter Melanie Whittle joining forces with The Very Most’s Jeremy Jensen and Jake Hite. To be fair it sounds like both bands who play at the folkier end of indiepop and Whittle’s vocals, of which I am a strong fan, make songs like ‘Bravado and Rhetoric’, ‘Tracey Emin’s Bed’ and ‘Stuart Murray’ memorable. Don’t expect anything new here. Existing fans (of both bands!) will most certainly love it but given that these songs are almost three years old I would certainly like to hear where Whittle is at now. Still given the quality of ‘I’m A Fool’ and ‘High Maintenance’ I really musn’t grumble!   --Records I Like
Every being has its nature. Hermit crabs stay out of sight much of the time, and then scuttle into view in all of their cute glory. They thrill for a while—especially other beings who like to consume them—and then they are gone until the next fortunate sighting. Such is the case with Glasgow's land-based version, The Hermit Crabs. Melanie Whittle formed the band in 2003. Since then, there have been one LP and several EPs, with various additional temporary crabs supporting Mel. True, not a massive output, but what do you expect from hermit crabs? Happily, the band has emerged into the sunlight again with ‘In My Flat’, which I think is the band's best work yet. Recorded in Idaho with Jeremy Jensen and Jake Hite of The Very Most (with whom Mel collaborates as Baffin Island), it comprises eight songs pop songs featuring Whittle's delicate and pristine voice, appealing melodies, and uncomplicated but interesting instrumentation. And as always is the case with a recording from The Hermit Crabs, Whittle's compositions are a star of the proceedings. Personal, intimate, revealing, feisty and witty, she paints evocative little portraits of life in a manner reminiscent of Scottish indie pop peers Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura. This record does what good indie pop should do -- make you sigh, make you smile, and prompt you to tap your foot or even dance around the room. If mixtapes still are a thing you do, a few of these may end up in the hands of your special friends. The Hermits Crabs are back in the sunlight, get yourself some.   --When You Motor Away
I’ve noticed a slow down in the past year or so of the output at Matinée Recordings, the Southern, California-based indie pop label that has been among the best for the past few decades. Owner Jimmy Tassos is busy with family these days but still has an ear for talent (and he also takes on bands for several records, not just one release and they’re gone). This Scottish trio, led by Melanie Whittle (former drummer for California Snow Story), specialize in real low-key indie pop that has occasional country music flourishes. This record was recorded in…Boise, Idaho (??!!) but you’d never know it as Whittle, along with multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Jensen and drummer, “One Take Jake” Hite (both from the Idaho band The Very Most….hence where they recorded) crank out eight songs that breeze by almost too non-chalantly on the first few plays but kept at it and songs really started sticking like the stuttering “Stuart Murray”, the country-inflected (pedal steel and all) “Should I Drop You Off” , the mostly acoustic “Tracey Emin’s Bed” (which opens with the line, “In my flat, beetles are on their backs, I’m on my back in…..Tracy Emin’s bed.) and a few others. There’s always a spot in my collection for low-key, well-written pop music. This fits right in.   --Blurt Magazine
This is some grown-up and clean-sounding indie pop stuff from Glasgow - looks like they've been around for a good ten years if their Discogs page is anything to go by. I say "grown-up" as lyrics deal with things like friends having kids, moving away, getting mortgages and material goods - plus other stuff like being on your back in Tracey Emin's bed. Melanie Whittle's vocals have a nice, melodic and airy way about them and the songwriting on here is of note - Camera Obscura would be the obvious, and probably, lazy reference point. It looks like this is mainly Melanie Whittle's project and she's joined by different folk in terms of the band. "I'm A Fool" is perhaps the standout for me - it has a lovely twinkly guitar sound. I also like the moodier "High Maintenance". If you liked that Model Village LP I reviewed the other day or can get excited by the return of The Popguns, then this is definitely worth a go.   --Collective Zine
Lo-fi and country-influenced indie pop act the Hermit Crabs live an elusive existence, so it seems. If you look them up on the internet, both their their website and Facebook page give very little away about them. What we do know is that they are a Glasgow-based collaboration and involve the main player Mel Whittle, Jeremy Jensen and a guy named 'One Take Jake' Hite. Will Gillett helps out with a bit of pedal steel on one of the tracks. Whittle plays rhythm guitar and vocals while Jensen multi-tasks playing lead, bass and acoustic guitars and also adds double bass, all the percussion and lends a helping hand with the backing vocals. The band have signed to Matinée Recordings, the Southern California-based indie pop label owned by Jimmy Tassos, which has been knocking out decent sounds for two decades now. Melanie Whittle was former drummer for California Snow Story and formed the band in 2003. She and Jensen and Hite also double up as another band called Baffin Island, while Jensen and Hite also record as the Very Most. This offering was recorded in Boise, Idaho and skips along well pretty much all the way through. Of the eight tracks on here, the highlights for me are the strange, all-over-the-place 'Stuart Murray', and the mostly acoustic 'Tracey Emin’s Bed' which has some colourful lyrics. I am not heavily into country music, but 'Should I Drop You Off?' has a wonderful eccentricity, recalling in its lyrics beetles on their backs and other odd things like that. It is all very nice, perhaps a bit too nice in places, but on the whole this is an album which indie pop fans should thoroughly enjoy. The CD is fronted with a photo of the outside of somebody's flat, which looks suspiciously like the one my wife and I first moved into but I am pretty sure it is not. There are credits to family and friends and also to Neil McNaught who mastered this little outing at Splitlevel Studios in Edinburgh and co-produced it with Whittle herself.   --Pennyblack Music
Segundo álbum de la banda escocesa The Hermit Crabs, que en realidad es el proyecto musical de Melanie Whittle. Tras su álbum de debut ‘Saw you dancing’ (Matinée, 2007) y un EP más reciente, ‘Time relentless ep’ (Matinée, 2012), por fin nos llegan nuevas canciones de The Hermit Crabs, aunque sólo sean ocho, para configurar una especie de mini álbum que suma 22 minutos, eso sí, ocho canciones que son auténticas joyas de indiepop que ponen los pelos de punta y nos dejan con ganas de más. Para ello, Melanie cruzó el charco y se fue en octubre de 2012 a Boise (Idaho) para grabar estas canciones en colaboración con Jeremy Jensen y Jake Hite de The Very Most, canciones que se mezclarían y masterizarían años después en Edimburgo, en verano de 2015. Recordemos que Melanie tuvo un grupo con Jeremy llamado Baffin Island y que grabaron un único EP e hicieron un único concierto en el Glasgow Popfest en 2011 del cuál fuimos testigos. El disco ha sido producido por Melanie Whittle y Neil McNaught. Son melodías que disfrutan de una gran inspiración, la voz celestial de Melanie, y un sonido muy nítido, que a veces se vuelve más hacia el country, como en “Should I drop you off?”, canción que cuenta con la ayuda de una pedal steel guitar tocada por Will Gillett. Mis favoritas: ‘I’m a fool’, ‘Tracey Emin’s bed’, and ‘Bravado and rhetoric’.   --El Planeta Amarillo
Otto agili canzoni indie-pop registrate nel lontano Idaho con Jeremy Jensen e Jake Hite di The Very Most segnano il ritorno sulle scene di Melanie Whittle, ormai esclusiva titolare del marchio The Hermit Crabs. Passa il tempo e cambiano i compagni di viaggio, ma non muta la vena pop genuina e articolata della songwriter scozzese, che nel suo nuovo mini-album “americano” mantiene inalterata e anzi sviluppa la spontaneità di una scrittura estremamente personale, eppure adusa alle collaborazioni. Lungo i ventidue minuti di “In My Flat” si ritrova infatti inalterato il fragile intimismo da cameretta di canzoni che con tocco lieve raccontano di relazioni sentimentali tormentate, semplici storie d’amicizia e giocosi attestati di stima per altri artisti. Nell’appartamento della Whittle, figurativamente effigiato nel titolo del lavoro, si avverte però anche la presenza tangibile dei musicisti che nell’occasione l’hanno supportata, alimentando mood e colori variabili alle sue canzoni. Le otto canzoni di “In My Flat” rappresentano infatti fedelmente i vari lati della personalità artistica della Whittle, brillante e spensierato in brani quali “Bravado And Rhetoric” e “Stuart Murray”, ove viene opportunamente sostenuto da chitarre pronunciate e ritmiche vivaci, ma anche impregnato di agrodolce intimismo in “I’m A Fool” e “Damage Control”, ove le chitarre assumono languori jangly e affiorano delicati passaggi acustici. Non mancano, quasi inevitabilmente, raffinati omaggi sixties (“Tracey Emin’s Bed”, “Should I Drop You Off?”), ulteriore sfaccettatura della personalità artistica di Melanie Whittle, che nella collaborazione con The Very Most ha trovato complemento ideale per la sua formula pop fresca e godibile, che come tale non conosce tempo né età.   --Music Won't Save You
Gentilezze assortite da casa Matiné, che ci regala la voce femminile di Melanie Whittle, arpeggi candidi, rimandi ai Camera Obscura, chitarre acustiche e un impianto guitar-pop iper classico. Ci sono i pezzi in punta di piedi con corettini deliziosi (I'm A Fool), arie country (Should I Drop You Off?), così come ritmi più sostenuti con la chitarra elettrica a rifinire i passaggi e un piglio che mi rimanda ai cari Po! (Stuart Murray) e malinconioe autunnali (High Maintenance). Tutto già sentito e senza particolari sussulti. Per completisti del genere verrebbe da dire, ma poco altro.   --Troublezine
Vamos a terminar el domingo y casi casi el mes de febrero con un alegre mini album publicado en 2015. Hablamos de un grupo de Glasgow llamado The Hermit Crabs y que es en realidad el proyecto de Melanie Whittle. En 2007 publicaron su álbum debut ‘Saw you dancing’ y el pasado año nos dejaron este bonito trabajo. Mel se trasladó a Idaho para grabar junto a Jeremy Jensen (con quien tuvo un grupo llamado Baffin Island), y con Jake Hite de The very most, y este fue el resultado tras la masterización en Edimburgo. Un trabajo precioso, lleno de bonitas melodías, encantadores coros y muy fácil de escuchar. Un indie pop con clara influencia del country, sobre todo en “Should I drop you off?” y que nos alegrará con seguridad éste lluvioso domingo.   --Musica Cuantica