There are certain things in life that are universally considered easy targets for us critics: Britpop, Uwe Boll, romantic fiction aimed at teenagers who have a thing for the supernatural, and perhaps above all, Scotland. A willing patsy to be a vehicle for bigoted propaganda, a desolate wasteland north of The Wall with a national dish of offal & heroin, whose best-known contribution to world culture is The Fucking Proclaimers.
Except that’s neither true nor fair, is it? It’s the country that gave us David Byrne, Simple Minds (who weren’t always shit), Mogwai, Boards of Canada, Belle & Sebastian (if that’s your thing), Teenage Fanclub and now, in a similar mould, North Atlantic Oscillation, whose sophomore album Fog Electric is out on April 30th.
It’s a relentlessly shoegazing, dream poppy record, which has invited comparisons with all of the above largely thanks to the production of Tony Doogan who has previously worked with Mogwai and Belle & Sebastian. Tracks such as ‘Chirality Fog’ and ‘The Receiver’ verge on prog rock condensed into a pop song format; think Pink Floyd meets Eels, whilst the likes of ‘Interval’ showcase the band’s post-rock influences.
Fog Atlantic isn’t quite the record-that-you’ve-never-heard-before that it threatens to be, a post-2010 classic that forms an essential component of any discerning indie music fan’s collection. Whilst it’s by no means formulaic, the combination of traditional guitar and piano underpinning soaring soundscapes of synths, electronica and emotive falsetto mean that the record is very much born of the same seeds as the brilliant and successful likes of Wild Beasts’ Smother and Antlers’ Burst Apart from last year. It’s a template whose popularity is at the moment too young to be tired, but it is a template nonetheless.
This isn’t to say that it’s in any way a disposable album. Clocking in at a shade under 48 minutes over ten tracks, you’re never short-changed by a lack of ideas. Furthermore, fans of dreamy pop will find it impossible not to get lost in the songs’ crackling misty atmospheres, which are perfectly crafted on each of Fog Electric’s songs; the title of the album alone describes its contents far more succinctly and more perfectly than any review ever could.
Music fans looking for something wildly left-field might turn their noses up at North Atlantic Oscillation, or at least approach them with some trepidation; however they’d be churlish to do so. After all, if a band can sound like artists as diverse as Mogwai and Eels, or Pink Floyd and Teenage Fanclub, and do so without making a horrific mess, then surely that’s evidence enough that they’re well worth your time.