REVIEW: En Attendant Ana – Juillet

En Attendant Ana have a dilemma. Stuck somewhere between trying to sound like a bunch of post punk/indie bands yet not sounding specifically like any of them, they result in being rather bland. They’re a little confused about what sort of album they wanted to make.

On paper, the album holds more promise. 10 songs in 35 minutes has to be some sort of golden ratio for albums of the type of bands they sometimes appear to want to be. ‘Do You Understand?’, ‘In/Out’ and ‘Flesh Or Blood’ are great three minute pop tunes. ‘In/Out’ in particular is catchy and out of the blue it popped in my head days after listening. The drums and guitar riffs combine superbly to drive them forward like the post punk/new wave hits they could be. If the short album was all like this then it would make sense.

 

However, without the full album’s worth of tunes to back this up, the flip side is, with no song significantly longer than any other, when the band do try to explore anything more in their songs the results are mixed at best. ‘Words’ for example, despite being another short song, makes an attempt and allows some space for interesting sounds including some late 60s style feedback in and around some nice guitar playing. But its nothing groundbreaking – it sounds exactly as you would imagine. The addition of a trumpet is about as innovative as it gets.

This brings me to my major issue with this album. The trumpet playing is just plain irritating. The guitar band formula has been around for decades because it works. Sure you can innovate a little – a synth here, a violin there – and to their credit they’ve attempted a little innovation with the trumpet’s addition. The problem is it’s not a successful innovation when you simply play the same notes and same rhythm in every song. It adds very little to the ensemble sound and arguably detracts in a number of songs. The counter melodies clash with the vocals and the tone is really poor. It’s like they couldn’t bring themselves to tell their mate who was in their band at school that actually they were a bit shit, and have accidentally kept them in the band for years for the same reason. Awkward.

 

I guess this goes along with their questionably deliberate ‘a bit shit’ sonic aesthetic, which I’ve seen more favourably described as ‘lo-fi’ elsewhere. I feel like I should comment more on the lyrics, but with the ‘lo-fi’ vocals hidden in the mix as they are, I’ve only been able to catch them in snippets. Their meaning shall remain a mystery.

There is a kind of leitmotif melody that reappears in different places in the album. I say kind of because a true leitmotif should represent something, but I’ve no idea what it is in this case, other than the slow death of a once great brass instrument.  ‘When It Burns’ is more of a slow refrain or slight return on ‘Down The Hill’. Maybe I’m missing something, but with no reference to this returning melody, for instance in song titles, it lacks cohesion – I want to be led through the album back to this point. But a concept album it is not.

Whatever sort of motif it is, when the melody returns  on ‘When It Burns’, it’s jarringly discordant. Once more I’m not sure if this is deliberate by the band or if it’s simply being sung out of tune.

There are enjoyable moments on this album, but as a complete piece of work it’s just not something I was happy listening to.

Words by James Spearing

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