Fuck first impressions. One gasp of the wheezing accordion that opens Model Village’s debut album might cause consternation amongst some of you, perhaps thinking of the dreadful things that pop music has done in the name of folk lately. But fear not! This is no exercise in bleating tedium à la Mumford & Sons, nor is it even vaguely close to the utter uselessness of Frank Turner – there’s certainly a folk influence at work here, but this is good ol’ classic indie above all. As proven when a tumbling drum roll nudges us gently into the fluorescent ‘Hang Ups Goodbye’, and all worries are cast aside. It sways, soothes and sighs – a little tweaking to the arrangement and Ian Scanlon’s gliding melody could almost have belonged to James Mercer, back when he still gave a shit. Basically, it’s a pretty fucking lovely way to start.
Ok, it’s not the sort of record that will change your life (Such a curious aspiration, don’t you think? Enhancement is nice enough) but this bunch know their way around a simple hook. The likes of ‘Harder And Harder’ would have us believe that Model Village are some sort of country act, but their choruses are too euphoric, too damn staring-defiantly-at-the-sun heroic for that. Country music revels laconically in pain, acknowledging it almost as an inevitability. Scanlon’s Robert Smith-esque tones certainly have their fair share of heartache tucked away between those tremulous pipes, but his melodies look for the rainbow on the other side. These songs soothe. They heal. They strive for more. ‘Dog Watches’, for instance, initially threatens to be little more than a minor chord dirge before unexpectedly bursting beautifully into flames. That voice practically explodes with sadness and hope, finding space in the chasm between those two contrasting emotions and turning them into something wonderfully pure. It is undiluted loveliness.
The focus isn’t squarely on Scanlon, however. Rachel Duncan’s performance on ‘Josefina’ is Harriet Wheeler-esque, all natural dips’n’dives, beautiful and resplendent with affinity for the melody. The understated grace of her voice has an almost mournful tinge that’s perfect for this simple sweetness, as is bassist Daniel Carney’s warmly elegiac croon on closing track ‘Sweets’. Honours shared, and rightly so.
Highlights come in the form of ‘2003’ and ‘Next Xmas’, the former a breezy meditation on reflection, and the fulfilment gained by seeing one’s “teenage dreams come true”. It’s as deft as The Shins (them again) at their finest and utterly, completely ace with it. The latter, meanwhile, is a subtly-expansive gem led by glockenspiel and a delirious, lilting bassline, before the whole thing gives way to a mesmeric ‘Silent Night’ coda. It winds up with Ian promising “next year will be the best one yet”, audibly pleading with himself to believe his own words. Uplifting, affecting and wearing its battered heart unashamedly on its sleeve, it’s pretty much all you could want from a Christmas song. Which is ever so slightly jarring in May, true, but this’ll make its way onto plenty of festive playlists come December.
Admittedly, for all the gushing praise lavished upon A Solution To Everything in this here review, it’s not quite perfect. Despite the shimmering prettiness of the melodies, not every track manages to be captivating. But if that’s your only real negative, you’ve gotta be doing something right, no? Let’s hope future visits to the Model Village are as memorable as this – it’s the overall impression that counts.