Saturday, 10 October 2009

Saturday Spotlight: The Clientele

Well, Winnipeg was hit by a snowstorm yesterday afternoon, an event which appears to have been a surprise (or so I've heard). With most of us turning up the heat indoors, it seems appropriate that British indie-pop quartet The Clientele release their latest album-- the warmly-titled Bonfires on the Heath-- around this time.

I found out about The Clientele through the wonders of poking around iTunes -- a similar process that led to my discovery of Combustible Edison -- and began listening to their 2007 album God Save the Clientele. The disc wasn't perfect (some of the songs were a bit too melancholic for my tastes), but songs like the uptempo "Bookshop Casanova" with its great hook and charming music video won me over pretty quickly:

The Clientele was originally made up of Alasdair MacLean (on vocals and guitar), Mark Keen (on drums), James Hornsey (on bass) -- Mel Draisey (on violin, percussion, backing vocals and keyboards) joined later. After recording an album's worth of material without attracting interest from record labels, the album was shelved and the group released a variety of singles instead. These singles were later collected to form the 2000 release Suburban Light, an album that was recently listed as the 80th greatest album of the decade by Pitchfork, a UK music magazine known for having high standards when it comes to reviewing music.

Listen to "6am Morningside" and "An Hour Before the Light" and decide for yourself if it deserves that sort of recognition:

Three years later, the group's "proper" debut album, The Violet Hour, was released. As the name would suggest, it's an album perfect for those late summer nights where the overall atmosphere can sometimes take precedence over lyrics -- "House on Fire" and "Voices in the Mall" are lovely songs, but you can't really make out what's being sung.

The Violet Hour was followed by what I consider their best work thus far, the 2005 album Strange Geometry. It's an album partially about London and partially about getting over the end of a relationship, as the first two tracks, "Since K Got Over Me" and "(I Can't Seem To) Make You Mine"-- which was featured prominently in The Lake House-- make clear.

Mel Draisey became a Clientele member as of God Save the Clientele, and her contributions have been greatly appreciated, giving songs like Bonfires on the Heath's "Harvest Time" a richer, fuller sound than much of their pre-God Save the Clientele's output.

To be honest, The Clientele produce such unassuming music that, for a time, I completely forgot about them and that I enjoyed their music so much. Hopefully this Saturday Spotlight has been as much a lesson to you as it has been to me: if you hear a great band, don't forget they exist; otherwise, they could just as easily slip through the net.

Until next time,

From a very chilly Winter-- I mean Winnipeg,


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