North Atlantic Oscillation‘s steampunk-esque sleeve for their Callsigns EP is very nice: restrained but distinctive, quality materials, an enticing package even for the most jaded of reviewers. Nothing flashy – quite the opposite, in fact. Sombre, almost, but with a trace of whimsy.
North Atlantic Oscillation‘s sound has both sombre qualities and whimsical ones, but it’s quite sunny, too – like a rain-soaked garden lit up by a hazy spring dawn after a long night on the pills and powders with some good good people. Lead track “Cell Count” comes up with liquid psychedelic swirls of keys, guitars, vocodered and layered vocals in Brian Wilson harmonies, and a ridiculously catchy sing-along-a-mantra hook for the chorus. It’s like Wayne Coyne channeling the Beatles, and (sensibly) aiming to connect at their most substance-addled point on the timeline.
The carefree trippiness of “Ceiling Poem” also partakes of that Lucy in the sky, but throws in some funky drumming and soaring Hammond organ for a breakdown to great effect before switching right on back to the bat-shit odd-ball pop of the verses… and back to the wig-out bit again. Utterly daft, gloriously over-the-top and mismatched… but also possessing all of that pseudomythical British restraint that our friends overseas always profess to admire so much. It’s eccentric, and charming. Can’t ask for much more than that of a pop record, can you?
For a slight change of pace, “I Only Have Eyes For You” is a bleary loved-up waltz ballad full of stoned yearning and queasy synth strings, like a long afternoon by a slow-moving river with a girl who you know doesn’t really love you. Then North Atlantic Oscillation wrap things up with a remix from Engineers, which brings some thump-snap breakbeats to the equation; very Balearic, but with a modern twist. The Callsigns EP is the second record in as many weeks that has made me think “shouldn’t this have been released in the summer?”, but I’m not gonna shout it too loud – I think I’ll just harbour this little nugget of sunshine until the winter’s over.