Review: Pocketbooks – Carousel

Having taken a little look around to see what the rest of the world thinks of them, it would seem it would be impossible to review Pocketbooks without mention of Belle and Sebastian, but my first thoughts upon hearing this London-based twee-pop quintet were of Tender Pervert era Momus. Admittedly, this may be because – I must here admit – I have only the one Belle & Sebastian album in my collection (The Boy with the Arab Strap) and have not heard anything since their Books EP of 2004. But I digress. The point I am trying to make with this opening paragraph is that, like those other bands unafraid to engage playfully with their words, pen yarns about such seemingly trivial topics as waiting tables on New Year’s Eve, losing the love of your life to stargazing and al fresco apple orchard all-nighters and do so over well-crafted piano and jangly guitar accompaniments such that each and every track oozes with delirious charm, conjuring images of cinematic summer days, all free-wheeling tandems, hands holding hands on park benches and the dizzy falling into new love, dropping the nod to Belle & Sebastian in your review does not quite do them justice.

Never mind a whole paragraph…

Instead, let us review Pocketbooks as an entity unto themselves. Well, everything I said above is true. Carousel is a joy from start to end. Andy Hudson – their chief songwriter – is a master of distilling life, where feelings of sweet abandon are here and there checked by bitter stings of regret at mistakes made, opportunities missed or trust misplaced, all penned with such aplomb and verbal agility as to vividly bring each scene to life. From the opening piano line and arpeggios of Fireworks at Midnight (itself revisited a little into the second half of the album, in The Flowers Are Still Standing, which seems to view the same scene from another viewpoint), the album unfolds slowly into being, adding a little at a time until leaving one last lingering note that explodes into the full band opening of Promises, Promises, replete with strings. The album proceeds to visit its different moods, maintaining both its energy and brightness throughout; even when lamenting life’s losses, there is joy to be found in the details – the inherent poetry found in coupling the vast expanse and the minutiae of everyday experience.

Pocketbooks’ various releases are available to purchase, with some streaming tracks and the occasional free download, from their Bandcamp store. Carousel is available direct from Odd Box Records or the usual:

Amazon: UK (MP3)

Pocketbooks: Official Website

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