FRENCH WIVES – Dream Of The Inbetween (Electric Honey)

I first became aware of French Wives about a year ago, when they started to post their songs on Youtube and Bandcamp. There was something rather appealing about their lightweight indie-pop, so I made a note to keep an eye out for any new material from them, and although nothing more appeared on the net, they do now have a proper album out. Despite the name, the band are a Scottish five-piece, and they follow in a long tradition of Scottish indie-pop, starting with the likes of Orange Juice and Josef K, right through to Belle & Sebastian and The Delgados. On to the music, and ‘Modern Columns’ starts thing off with a new song, and is the perfect opener, displaying the band’s sound to full effect. Stuart Dougan’s vocals blend seamlessly with the indie-folk of the music, and Siobhan Anderson’s violin adds that little something extra to the bombastic chorus, making for a great start to the album. Recent single ‘Numbers’ follows, and with its catchy chorus and confident delivery it was a good choice to introduce people to the band. ‘Back Breaker’ slows the pace, and for the first time I can hear the similarity to Elbow’s Guy Garvey in the vocals, while musically it strives for that anthemic quality that Elbow are reknowned for, which they pretty much pull off. The (almost) title track ‘The Inbetween’ is short but sweet, at just a minute and a half of lovely harmonies and intriguing lyrics. ‘Me vs. Me’ is a reworking of one of the tracks I heard a year ago, and this version is much punchier, but still recognisable from the version I remembered. ‘Sleep Tight’ is the band’s attempt at a grungier sound, with producer Tony Doogan insisting they ‘dirty up’ the guitar and vocals. ‘Halloween’ is the only other early song re-visited by the band for the album, and once again they have markedly reworked it from the original single release in 2009 - a decision which has divided fans as to which version is the better. Current single ‘Younger’ starts out as another piano-led slowie, with the Garvey-isms returning in the vocals, before it builds into a rousing chorus and then drops back again for the next verse. For a song of regret about things that you neglected to do in the past, it is surprisingly uplifting and optimistic. The album closes with ‘The Sickness’, a majestic ballad, starting with Dougan’s vocal over some subtle keyboards and violin, and then the rest of the band coming in for a lovely instrumental coda to finish the song. It is good to hear how the band have progressed over the past couple of years, especially being able to hear new versions of those two older songs, and if you search them out on the net you can hear how assured they now are compared to some of the tentative offerings that they posted online. Definitely a band to watch out for, as on the evidence of this album they could become one of Scotland’s best exports.
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