Posted on November 11th, 2009 (12:00 pm) by Katherine Parks

In an age where a large percentage of indie music falls into the folk or folk rock categories, it is crucial to distinguish the true folk music from the rest. However, in the case of Dark Captain Light Captain, the task is anything but a cakewalk. On their not-so-recent debut release, 2008’s Miracle Kicker, the English sextet manages to bridge the gaps between folk, post-rock, and a number of other distinct styles. The only way to really get a good grasp of this band’s talent is to sit back on a lazy, sunny autumn afternoon, cuddle up with some hot cocoa, and let Miracle Kicker play from start to finish.

You really cannot ask for a better opening track than “Jealous Enemies.” Of all the songs on DCLC’s release, this one is, perhaps, the best example of the band’s talent and cohesion as a relatively fresh face on the indie scene. The layered acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies are particularly exquisite and memorable. Set against appropriately paced drums, the vocal harmonies could probably stand on their own without the guitar; they are just that good.

Like “Jealous Enemies,” the album’s title track is a truly unique listening experience. It is the last track on this relatively short debut, but it is an essential piece that must not be overlooked. The twinkling of bells and piano in the background are to die for, and sound almost Christmas-like, but it is definitely the strong acoustic guitar presence that pulls one back to reality. Again, DCLC like to make use of vocal harmonies and although I am not really a fan of the whispery, shaky, nearly effeminate vocal style, these guys make it work. Here, as on the rest of the songs on this album, they tie everything up in a neat little package and wait for all of the intricate harmonies and beautiful musicianship to explode in your ears.

Oh, wait. You said you liked interesting, layered songs, something reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens? Well, “Robot Command Centre” is all yours. It opens with a soft, yet dark electronic keyboard, a foreboding clarinet, and is fastened against a backdrop of acoustic guitar and the amalgamated vocal talents of Dan Carney, Neil Kleiner, and Giles Littleford (English accent included). Try not to expect a carbon copy of Stevens’ voice, but this installment is pretty close. Don’t believe me? Give it a listen, and then go consult Illinoise or Seven Swans, and see how DCLC blends the best aspects of Stevens’ work with their own to create something unique on Miracle Kicker.

Situated somewhere in the middle of the album, there are songs like “Speak,” which illustrate DCLC’s other talents, like electric guitar and, um, whistling. Give this one a spin, and prepare to be shocked. This track reminds me of a cross between Mute Math, Brand New and Andrew Bird. The album, in general, has the same level of musicianship as Mute Math, the vocals of Brand New’s Jesse Lacey, and a few of Andrew Bird’s multitude of unique talents.

Speaking of Brand New, if you are a die-hard fan of Lacey’s voice and guitar, you may like “Parallel Bars.” Sure, it has this crazy trumpet going on in the background, but once you hear that plucky, brooding guitar and the odd, whispered harmonies, you may be able to draw a pretty strong connection between the two bands. I suppose I correlate DCLC with Brand New because of the vocal similarities, but it is obvious that these two acts are from very different camps. Dark Captain Light Captain possesses the best aspects of the folk, post-rcok, and indie genres all at once. As a result, it is difficult to label their music strictly as folk or indie pop; it is really neither. At times, you will hear the grazing, more abrasive notes, which are often classified under the rock category, and, at other times, you will hear soft piano and wafting electronic elements (think Sigur Rós), and then also more folk guitar and brass instruments. Clearly, typecasting the efforts of these English guys would be doing them a disservice.

Overall, Miracle Kicker is a highly successful debut release. These guys have their wits about them; they clearly know what harmony is, but more so, they know how to collaborate effectively with one another to create a memorable album. And by memorable, I mean something that catches your ear and is relaxing, but doesn’t require too much thought or attention. Dark Captain Light Captain just let their music happen and hold nothing back in the process, which is, for a new act, both daring and refreshing, because it doesn’t happen too often.

Track List:
1. Jealous Enemies (4:01)
2. Parallel Bars (4:18)
3. Circles (5:24)
4. Remote View (4:20)
5. Questions (5:17)
6. Robot Command Centre (4:05)
7. Speak (3:49)
8. Spontaneous Combustion (3:38)
9. Everyone We Know (4:17)
10. Miracle Kicker (4:28)

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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