The Hermit Crabs - Saw You Dancing

matcd046  /  October 2007
The Hermit Crabs - Saw You Dancing
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The Hermit Crabs - Saw You Dancing

matcd046  /  October 2007

Highly anticipated debut album from celebrated new Glasgow band The Hermit Crabs! The band's 'Feel Good Factor' single (matinée 063) turned lots of heads upon its release early this year, with Tangents calling it "sweet succinct pop that snaps and crackles in all the right places," describing it as "a dose of California sunshine filtered through Scottish bedroom-pop sensibilities," and All Music Guide heralding it as "classic Scottish indie pop."

Following release of the EP, the band expanded to a five-piece with the addition of a full time violinist and percussionist and focused on live performances before completing the recordings for this magnificent debut album. Rich with instrumentation and recorded with notable guest musicians including members of Teenage Fanclub and Camera Obscura, 'Saw You Dancing' is one of those classic debut albums that impresses right from the start.

The album kicks off with 'Tonight', a folk-tinged indiepop song with prominent violin and percussion, and 'Goodbye My Friend,' a bouncing jangle pop hit with great harmonies. 'Closet Fan' is a country-tinged pop masterpiece with great lyrics, hypnotic percussion, splendid violin and more exquisite harmonies, while 'Lean Free Summer' is straightforward pop that swings along nicely with keyboards, handclaps, and violin. Meanwhile, 'Bad Timing' adds depth to the album with impressive percussion and a bit of a soulful twist.

'Friend's Folk Festival' makes a case as one of the album highlights with splendid guitar work and a sprightly melodica, while 'Secrets and Lies' is a brooding folk pop song that is captivating in its simplicity. 'Feel Good Factor'—the song that first got the band noticed as one of the winners in Scotland's Burnsong song writing competition—shows that The Hermit Crabs are indeed worthy of the accolades suggesting they are next in line to join the Scottish pop elite currently fronted by fellow Glaswegians Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura. 'Third Time Lucky' is lilting guitar pop with exquisite vocals, and the album concludes with the multi-layered and hauntingly beautiful 'Soul Mate.'

A remarkable debut album from new Scottish pop favorites, 'Saw You Dancing' is another dazzling success for Matinée!

  1. Tonight
  2. Goodbye My Friend
  3. Closet Fan
  4. Lean Free Summer
  5. Bad Timing
  6. Friend's Folk Festival
  7. Secrets and Lies
  8. Feel Good Factor
  9. Third Time Lucky
  10. Soulmate


‘Tonight’ is the understated introduction to ‘Saw You Dancing,’ the debut collection from Glasgow’s Hermit Crabs. Though barely over two minutes in length, it aptly showcases what is to be expected throughout the album; acoustic and electric guitars drive the song before a flourish of violin in the second half, and lead vocalist and chief songwriter Melanie Whittle maintains a sober tone as she picks at the bones of a failing relationship (a recurring theme across the album’s ten tracks). Indeed, it would be fair to say that this is not a ‘happy’ album, despite the presence of Burnsong competition winner ‘Feel Good Factor’ which extols the virtues of Glasgow’s bustling and well- renowned Sauchiehall Street. The majority of the music is delivered with a distinctly mournful air, and even when the pace picks up such as on ‘Goodbye My Friend,’ the song remains at heart a wry lament. ‘Third Time Lucky’ expresses regret, the pining for absent friends, and with its sweetly melodic guitar and harmony parts shows how well the Hermit Crabs can musically articulate sadness. Though sonically they stay downbeat throughout the album, rare hints that the band have more than sorrow up their sleeves, perhaps include the introductory handclaps on ‘Lean Free Summer’ and the flashes of humour in Whittle’s lyrics. With the Hermit Crabs’ indie sound embellished by violin and occasional dabbles into additional instrumentation, and the tinges of folk which permeate the record, it is perhaps too easy to bring the likes of Belle & Sebastien and Camera Obscura to mind, and yet all the same impossible to avoid either comparison. Fans of both bands will appreciate this solid debut which should provide the band with a sure footing on which to build.   --Is This Music?
Led by singer/guitarist Melanie Whittle, The Hermit Crabs craft the sort of low-key pop numbers you'd cherish on a drizzly day: With folkish simplicity and softness, the band's debut Saw You Dancing -- out now on Matinée Records -- breezes through light indie pop that's stuck somewhere in the middle of twee and bedroom pop opuses. With Whittle's bubbling vocals as the foundation, the band cross-references everything from jangly American indie rock a la Shins and Death Cab to bedroom-pop masterpieces from everyone from The Field Mice to The Lucksmiths. If it sounds complicated, it isn't: Old-fashioned simplicity sits at the heart of Saw You Dancing as the Hermit Crabs waltz through a pure pop album so easily you may forget how slick it really is. Don't underestimate it: "Secrets and Lies" is nothing but uncut folk-pop, with an acoustic guitar and violin propping up Whittle's plaintive vocals. "Feel Good Factor," which is recycled from the band's debut of the same name, is a dose of Californian sunshine filtered through Scottish bedroom-pop sensibilities and the melodies in "Tonight" are giddy enough to chase away the blues that might settle on such a coy number.
Vintage photograph on the album cover? Check. Trebly and lovesick melodies sharp enough to rip a cardigan sweater? Check. Clever, library assistant-baiting lyrics such as “I will be de Beauvoir, if you’ll be my Sartre”? Double-check. Needless to say, Scotland’s Hermit Crabs leave no page of the Scottish folk-pop fakebook unturned, but for those frustrated by a 2007 with no new music from either Belle And Sebastian or Camera Obscura, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The sweet, three-hankie ballad “Closet Fan” finds the honey-voiced Melanie Whittle sighing about punk rock while confessing a secret love, and “Bad Timing,” with its driving beat and a tastefully grinding violin, is about as close to rocking out as the Hermit Crabs are likely to get. The group’s jangle-pop pedigree is fairly impeccable, with guest spots from original Teenage Fanclub drummer (and Camera Obscura manager) Francis Macdonald, and the album’s 10 bite-sized tracks breeze by with such a casual ease that it’s tough to find much fault.   --Magnet Magazine
Glasgow has become a musical hotbed of late, with the likes of Belle and Sebastian, Franz Ferdinand and more recently Glasvegas cutting their teeth there. But if you scratch below the surface there are many more bands worthy of your attention and the Hermit Crabs are one such band. Fronted by Melanie Whittle, they sound similar to little known Leicester band, Po!, from the early 1990’s or the more familiar New Seekers, had they come from Scotland 40 years after they had originally appeared… Rooted very much in the simple mid-80's indie-pop glorified by fanzines, cardigans, flower printed dresses, bowl haircuts and anoraks, The Hermit Crabs breathe additional life and beauty into their songs with the haunting use of violin, such as on opener, 'Tonight', or debut single, 'Feel Good Factor'. Despite the gentle sound and overall tweeness of this record (handclaps appear on at least two tracks), there are some dark themes running through many of the songs, such as onthe final track, 'Soul Mate', which contains the lyrics “Can I be your mistress? Can I be your one night stand? I’ll hold the cards, I’ll have my heart” or Friend’s Folk Festival with “…and I don’t wanna have sex tonight with a boy from my work on the south side”. In truth, the Hermit Crabs are never going to perform sell out tours, have hit records or woo the music press, but they are a positive reminder that indie-pop did not die in the late 80's, at the birth of shoegazing and grunge, but merely returned to the underground to thrive happily below the fickle pop radar. An admirable addition to any indie-pop collection.   --Pennyblack Magazine
There’s a sweet simplicity to The Hermit Crabs’ music which I appreciate. Their debut album Saw You Dancing has 10 songs, at maybe a half-hour in length. But more than that it’s their music itself that’s simple and sweet: A singer with a pretty voice over breezy guitar-pop with a light folk slant, partly via violin. Handclaps here, harmonies there. Song-speeds from slow to mid-tempo. No flashy surprises or tricks, just songs. Songs about friends, about love, about what to do with your evenings, about the band’s hometown of Glasgow, Scotland. My favorite songs form a trio at the album’s center. There’s “Lean, Free Summer”, with its vision of an idyllic summer spent hanging out with friends, free from responsibilities, though loneliness remains as an undercurrent. There’s “Bad Timing”, where dense guitar gives a slight rock edge but a pretty violin break lightens it. And the bouncy “Friend’s Folk Festival”, about the “what to do tonight?” question but really about a complicated secret love. Those songs all have a sense of despair and worry underneath, showing even the simplest pleasures are never that simple. Saw You Dancing was preceded by a 4-song EP, with the album track “Feel Good Factor” plus three more songs that carry that same sense of simple but not simplistic. A “carefree” ballad actually ends the EP with a wicked mood hovering in the air.   --Erasing Clouds
Their EP was a delightful little treat ("Feel Good Factor" even makes another appearance here), but this full album from them is simply gorgeous! The band plays folky pop, using female vocals, brushed drums and the occasional violin or piano, sharing similarities (as well as relations) with fellow Glaswegians Camera Obscura and California Snow Story, with nods to Math And Physics Club and Belle And Sebastian, as well. Ten tracks of perfect little pop songs that are just as heartbreaking and poignant during the upbeat and jangly songs as they are during the slower ones!   --IndiePages
Glasgow's The Hermit Crabs perfectly exhibit everything that makes the indie-pop genre wonderful on their debut album. The female vocals from Melanie Whittle are beautiful and rich with emotion. The rhythms are catchy, at times melancholy and at times playful. The production adds a lush sheen to the album, bringing out every chiming guitar note. And the use of violin and extra percussion gives the band it's most unique quality. While not straying too far from indie-pop bands like The Lucksmiths and Belle & Sebastian, this young band spans a number of genre influences on their debut, from the purely precise pop to bits of folk, country, and rock. Assisted at times by members of Teenage Fanclub and Camera Obscure, the Crabs illustrate how approachable their music can be to fans of a variety of styles of pop. The album opens with the folk-tinged 'Tonight," a subtle opener that exhibits the wonderful addition violin can add to the genre. It's followed by the up-tempo 'Goodbye My Friend," which has a nice, bouncy rhythm a la Dressy Bessy. 'Closet Fan" is softer, more melancholy and introspective, while 'Lean, Free Summer" is so playfully poppy, the hand-claps at the beginning sound completely at home. My favorite song on the album is definitely 'Bad Timing," with a bit of a soulful sway and some added percussion to lend it depth. 'Friend's Folk Festival" is another highlight, with a sprightly pace and the catchiest lyrics on the album. I can't help bobbing and singing along to 'Feel Good Factor," which perfectly suits its feel-good title. Even the more heartfelt tracks, like the folksy/country-tinged 'Third Time Lucky" has a wonderful sway to it. The more mellow and somber 'Soul Mate" closes the album with a gorgeous, echoed feel and light guitars. The musicians here are clearly not newcomers. There's a lot of talent in The Hermit Crabs, as evident on this debut full-length. These songs are well-written and perfectly produced, with a nice range of indie-pop influences. And there's potential to stray even further from the set boundaries of the genre, making me eagerly anticipate a follow-up.   --Delusions of Adequacy
The Hermit Crabs remind me of Camera Obscura, alot. I like Camera Obscura, alot. And hence I am rather fond of the Hermit Crabs too. Lovely jangly pop songs, covered in icing and the beautiful voice of Melanie Whittle is an ample cherry on top. Sometimes longingly drawn out care of the soaring violins, elsewhere instant and poppy, catchy and joyful like the instantaneous pop of Goodbye My Friend, Lean Free Summer and the surely by now much loved Feel Good Factor with its cheeky “cha cha cha”. “Have you ever fallen in love with someone you really shouldn’t have?” Asks the lovely Closet Fan...”we were born within an hour of each other/ and we share the same hair colour”. For those craving a new Camera Obscura album Saw You Dancing will more than suffice if not exceed your needs for now.   --I'd Rather Be Fat Than Be Confused
Cosa si diceva dei Camera Obscura al primo disco? Che erano risciacquatura indiepop? Che non sarebbero mai usciti dal cono d'ombra di Belle & Sebastian? O che, nonostante tutto, "Eighties fan" ce la saremmo ricordata a lungo? E' il momento di imparare dagli errori, perchè gli Hermit Crabs vengono da un paradosso temporale a ripetere tutto quanto. Assomigliano tanto al gruppo di Tracyanne Campbell. Un gruppo di Glasgow identico a un gruppo di Glasgow che assomigliava tanto a un altro gruppo di Glasgow. Tante scatole cinesi, ognuna con una sorpresa. Ma non basta un pomeriggio scozzese a fare una grande canzone, non basta imitare un disco per replicarne i sentimenti. Questo almeno lo abbiamo imparato. E sotto la t-shirt dei Camera Obscura, gli Hermit Crabs hanno un cuore che batte. "Saw You Dancing" è un disco acerbo in tutti i modi giusti; è l'album di una band in divenire, che per il momento si accontenta di piccoli traguardi quotidiani ma che già evidenzia i sintomi della grandezza. I prerequisiti sono elencati come in un formulario: una lunga gestazione (alcuni dei pezzi risalgono al 2003), gli eccellenti rapporti di vicinato (produce Francis MacDonald dei Teenage Fanclub), il mood da perenne autunno cittadino. La differenza - o per meglio dire la somiglianza – però la fa il il talento di Melanie Whittle, che da autrice osserva, ricorda, e all'occorrenza rimpiange, accarezza con voce di velluto i dieci brani dell'album e ribadisce che la magia del pop made in Glasgow sta tutta nell'abilità del narratore, come in un gioco di prestigio visto mille volte ma ancora capace di lasciare il pubblico a bocca aperta. I pezzi veramente compiuti qui dentro sono pochi: i puri arpeggi scottish di "Tonight", l'ennesimo impalbabile elogio della timidezza di "Closet Fan", l'allegria campagnola da storia d'amore di "Friend's Folk festival", e soprattutto il perfetto buonumore di "Feel good factor", il suo giro di basso, la splendida voce di Melanie che dipinge Sauchiehall Street (la via dello shopping di Dublino) con tinte più vivide di qualsiasi quadro e di qualsiasi storia, consegnandola ad un buonumore così tangibile da potersi toccare con mano. Come si diceva? La ricorderemo a lungo. Ma ciò che affascina di "Saw you Dancing", più ancora della sonnecchiosa bellezza da coperte ancora calde, è la promessa che sussurra; una promessa sottolineata dalle sue stesse incertezze, e per questo destinata a diventare migliore. Sono i frammenti amari e desolati di "Free, lean summer", le alternanze vocali sixties di "Third Time Lucky", improvvisi bagliori in canzoni imperfette, incompiute. E anche i fallimenti come "Bad timing" servono a convalidare la sensazione di un album vivo e lucido. Se il singolo era un indizio, questa è la prova, inoppugnabile e definitiva, che i giovani redenti e delusi che lavoravano da Marks & Spencer, e che poi disperati lavavano i capelli con il miele per farsi amare, adesso si rintanano sotto le coperte ad ascoltare musica punk, per proteggersi dal mondo. Non è cambiato niente, tutto si è rinnovato nel ciclico miracolo chiamato scottish pop.