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Album Review: Erland and the Carnival – Closing Time

By on Wednesday, 27th August 2014 at 12:00 pm

This week marks the release of ‘Closing Time’, the latest album from Erland and the Carnival. While the band are on an indie (Full Time Hobby), considering that many bands can’t even get past their first albums without getting dropped, losing interest in the endeavour or breaking up, being able to say you’ve put out your third LP to the wild is a major accomplishment. The band, featuring the strong songwriting partnership of Orkney frontman Erland Cooper and ex-Verve guitarist and keyboardist Simon Tong, show off in fine fashion on ‘Closing Time’ their best work yet.

While 2011’s ‘Nightingale’ saw the band stretching their artistic arms towards the fanciful, with songs that might have felt more at home soundtracking films and/or utilising quirky electronic sounds, this album’s strengths are the storytelling in each of the individual tracks and the emotional content therein. The album begins with the twinkly title track, with precious xylophone and keyboard notes. Is it a death knell for a release to announce, repeatedly, from the start, “closing time / time to get you out of my mind / time to get you out of my life / nothing lasts forever”? Not necessarily.

The feeling stands more as a motto for the collection of 10 songs, an indicator of what is to come. And when I used the words ’emotional content’ before, I meant it. There are some truly heart-wrenching moments on this album. ‘Closing Time’ expresses regret over a failed relationship and also possibly death (“please don’t talk about me when I’m gone / I’ll keep to the shadows after the light has gone”). Despite its upbeat tempo and seemingly gay guitar work, Cooper’s self-deprecation is on display in ‘Wrong’, as Cooper insists he’s “plain wrong” and begs for someone “can you help me?” as strings sympathetically hum.

Previous single ‘Quiet Love’, which features backing vocals and guitar for surprise guest Paul Weller, is a study in loneliness, a lilting paean to waiting for the Right One to come along but in the meantime, it’s perfectly okay to find peace in being alone. On standout ‘That’s the Way It Should Have Begun (But It’s Hopeless)’ Cooper might not be as witty as Neil Hannon, nor would the Divine Comedy mastermind be likely to use electronic chords or effects, but the feeling of hopelessness in a relationship being played out over a pop melody is very Hannon-esque.

The other major theme on this album is mortality. While touched upon on the title track, closing number ‘Daughter’ best exemplifies this. Written with a half bottle of whiskey and shortly after Cooper became a father for the first time, his process to describe leaving this world is an attempt to reassure (“just before I say goodbye / loving you won’t die”). Of the song, Cooper says, “I was trying to write and record the simplest song that can say a number of deeper things while saying something completely obvious.” The song is actually not that simple: while it features a repetitive but music box-like soothing piano melody, it features some looped backing vocals interspersed throughout that I guessed were the band’s attempt to mimic the disorientation one feels when nearing the end. The result is a song that is beautiful but also unsettling, unearthly.

Also haunting is ‘They’re Talking About You Again’, a conversation about “a different kind of love” (presumably homosexuality) and whether we will arrive in Heaven exalted (“will there be stars in my crown? / the evening sun’s going down / are we blessed in the mansions of rest? / will there be stars in my crown?”). In the tune, the guitars are suitably downbeat, as are the descending piano notes that are alternately forlorn and beautiful.

In the face of all this darkness and depth, some lighter moments feel out of place. ‘I Am Joan’ was originally titled humorously in honour of Tong’s nickname of ‘Joan of Arc’ for Cooper and sounds more like the prog folk rock band they began as 6 years ago; it comes across as enjoyable, but it’s fluff nevertheless. ‘Birth of a Nation’ is poptastic with its bright synths and marching gait, so there’s no question why this was chosen as a single. But it’s lightweight compared to some of its song brethren on ‘Closing Time’. Still, as a whole, this album proves Erland and the Carnival can write and record serious, yet touching, beautiful stories with engaging melodies. They also aren’t afraid of putting their heart on their sleeve or broaching some serious topics in popular song. And on all three counts, they should be truly commended.


Erland and the Carnival‘s third album ‘Closing Time’ is out now on Full Time Hobby. The band will be on tour in the UK in October. If you’re quick, you can hear the band live on BBC 6music iPlayer on a session they recorded with Marc Riley on the 6th of August.


Erland and the Carnival / October 2014 UK Tour

By on Friday, 8th August 2014 at 8:00 am

Erland and the Carnival have just announced a list of UK tour dates to follow the late August release of their third album ‘Closing Time’, out the 25th of August on Full Time Hobby. Mary recently featured the video for the album’s delicately beautiful first single ‘Quiet Love’. Tickets for the following tour dates are available now.

Nonday 13th October 2014 – Glasgow Broadcast
Tuesday 14th October 2014 – Manchester Soup Kitchen
Wednesday 15th October 2014 – Oxford Jericho
Thursday 16th October 2014 – Leicester Musician
Friday 17th October 2014 – London Southbank Purcell Room


Video of the Moment #1545: Erland and the Carnival

By on Thursday, 12th June 2014 at 6:00 pm

Folky, broody trio Erland and the Carnival will be releasing their third album ‘Closing Time’ in late August. This week they make their return to the fold with the album’s lead single ‘Quiet Love’, starring a surprise appearance by the Modfather himself Paul Weller on backing vocals and additional guitar. In the promo video, we get a peek inside a bingo hall filled with grannies while a man trying to mask his identity – or his shyness? – inside a paper bag while Erland Cooper sings, “I quite like to be alone, I don’t mind where I fall / and I need your quiet love, it’s all I’m living for”. Fragile and beautiful. Watch the video below.

‘Closing Time’ drops on the 25th of August on Full Time Hobby. For more on Erland and the Carnival on TGTF, go here.



Single Review: Erland and the Carnival – This Night

By on Monday, 22nd August 2011 at 2:00 pm

This past winter, Erland and the Carnival released their second album, ‘Nightingale’. It felt to me like a decided departure from their self-titled debut: like Noah and the Whale on their recent third album release ‘Last Night on Earth’, the trio (folk singer/guitarist Erland Cooper, multi-instrumentalist Simon Tong [Verve, Blur] and drummer David Nock) embraced electronics for their new album, with varied results.

Barely over 3 minutes, it’s a raucous little ditty that Tong explains as follows: “The lyrics are shamelessly borrowed from Morrissey and Lionel Bart’s Oliver, the music is part the Strokes‘ first album, part Television and part Banana Splits theme music.” Hmmm. Ordinarily, a description like that wouldn’t give me much confidence. Oddly though, it’s kind of a rocky Doors meets pop tune that will get your toes tapping in no time.

‘This Night’ is backed by new recording ‘Deep in Love’, the band’s reinterpretation of a song recorded in the 1950s. Cooper describes it as a tragic exposition of a pregnant woman who commits suicide because she cannot be with the father (gone off to sea), who later returns to find his love dead. If you’re wondering, darkness always seems to intrigue Erland and the Carnival: consider last year single’s ‘The Derby Ram’, about a youth’s tragic end by jumping from a roof.


The ‘This Night’ single from Erland and the Carnival is available starting today from Full Time Hobby.


Video of the Moment #461: Erland and the Carnival

By on Sunday, 24th April 2011 at 10:00 am

For their second album ‘Nightingale’, Erland and the Carnival took an interesting, different direction from their first: exploring more electronic territory. If you are particularly wary of creepy-crawlies, I recommend you skip this eerie video for upcoming single ‘Springtime’. (Umm, what kind of things are active in the springtime? I majored in biology in uni and even I thought this was pretty creepy.)


‘Nightingale’ is available now from Full Time Hobby. The single for ‘Springtime’ will drop on 30 May.


Video of the Moment #400: Erland and the Carnival

By on Monday, 7th February 2011 at 6:00 pm

Erland and the Carnival will be releasing their second album, ‘Nightingale’, on 7 March on Full Time Hobby. Ahead of that, they’ve got a new single, ‘Map of an Englishman’, to be released on 28 February. Very nice lyrics: “I drew myself an island / of what I am made from / I built it round my consciousness / next to a town called Love”. What a cool looking video – someone (or multiple someones) really thought about what the song is about before they conceived this.

Brace yourself though: the album is quite different from its folky predecessor…



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