The eagle eyed amongst you will notice the release date at the bottom of the article reads July 10th. A seemingly insignificant date, but a historic one, because July 10th is a Friday. So what? Well from July 10th, Friday will now be the release date for all albums, not just here in the UK but globally. At this point you might still be pondering the same question: so what? Well according to some, this decision could have far reaching consequences for the music industry as a whole and in particular to independent labels. So what are the pros and cons of the decision? And why has it been brought in place?
The globalisation and downloadability of music means that having different release dates across different regions is imptractical. For example, when we here in the UK receive our music on a Monday, it pretty much instantly leaks worldwide, which could affect sales in the USA where listeners don’t currently get the album until Tuesday. The industry will of course try to spin this global release date as a good thing, arguing that it allows artists to tell all their fans worldwide on social media; a medium that isn’t affected by your location, the same information, and to share their music with everyone at the same time. One of the theories is that this will increase the hype and excitement around new releases, or as they put it (in horrible corporate speak) “moving to a global release day will help to rekindle excitement around launching new music, allowing for truly global campaigns, bringing fans around the world closer than ever to their favourite artists.”
So far so good. However, there are some issues with Friday as a release day and independent record stores. For starters, stocking new records on a Friday means a surprise seller is unlikely to be able to be re-stocked prior to the weekend, get fifty copies of the new Mammoth Penguins album in, sell them all in a surprise sales spike on Friday morning and spend the weekend with people unable to purchase the very thing they’ve travelled down to your store to collect. Added to that, release day means instores. Instores on a Monday make a lot more sense than a Friday, because after work on a Friday you’re competing with pubs, dates, clubs and things that would be considerably less of a problem on a Monday night when the idea of a quiet early show at your friendly local record store is rather appealing. Another argument is that it takes away one of a records “bites at the cherry”. With the current day of Monday (or Tuesday if you’re on the other side of the pond) your die hard music fans will be there excitedly on release day, but your more casual just been paid because it’s the last Friday of the month fan might wander in on Friday and pick up the release, now you’ve got them all descending on your record store and it’s limited supplies at once, it’s basically on the verge of a logistical nightmare.
Add to that, it’s going to be a strange habit for those of us who are used to having something to look forward to every Monday morning to get out of, records always come out on Monday and films on Friday, but at the end of the day we’re just going to have to get used to it, because the big brain at the top of the industry says so!
Mammoth Penguins are fronted by ex-Standard Fare front-woman Emma Kupa. The band is completed by bassist Mark Boxall, known for his work with Violet Woods, and drummer Tom Barden, a member of The Pony Collaboration.
Emma’s voice sits proudly on top of a bed of razor sharp guitars, propulsive, pulsing bass lines and some frankly joyous sounding drumming. Played has shades of The Breeders bassy shuffle, Work It Out is the sort of jaunty, fuzzy pop that’s made Courtney Barnett a household name, whilst Cries At The Movie has the same easy jangling melancholy perfected by Camera Obscura.
The band formed after Emma left her native Sheffield for Cambridge, and are still based out of the university city now. The 172nd biggest district in the United Kingdom, Cambridge has a population of just over 122,000 people, and as such has developed something of a tight-knit music scene, with musicians regularly swapping one band for another. Probably Cambridge’s most famous musical sons are Pink Floyd, although The Broken Family Band, Muse singer Matt Bellamy and Katrina and the Waves are also from the city.
Mammoth Penguins formed shortly after the demise of Standard Fare back at the start of January 2013. The band signed to Fortuna Pop, and shared their debut single When I Was Your Age back in May this year. They followed it up with a second single Propped Up in June and their debut album Hide And Seek is out July 10th.
In many ways, on Hide And Seek, Mammoth Penguin have created an album of fully formed Indie-classics. These are timeless songs about relationships, growing up and things not turning out quite like you’d planned, that sound just as life affirming and fresh today as they would have had Blur or Supergrass written them twenty years ago.
The Hermit, with its clanging scuzzy guitar and ticking drums, is the tale of a long term crush who’s as uncontactable today, “in this age of modern technology” as they were “decades ago” when Emma, “started a band in the hope you’d pay attention.”
Make A Difference starts off with muted guitar runs in the mould of Girl Pool, but takes on a thrilling energy via the bouncing twang of a bass line that Allo Darlin’ would be proud of. We Won’t Go There is a questionable attempt at moving on with your life, Emma noting, “you know I still care for you, but we won’t go there” before adding pleadingly, “unless you want to?” The whole track threatens to fade slowly from view before exploding back into life via a thrilling blur of guitars, drums and what sounds a lot like someone aimlessly hammering the keys of a piano.
Lyrically Hide And Seek walks the well trodden path of failed relationships, but rarely are they this well crafted. From Played’s opening gambit, “it’s been a while since I met someone I could talk to for days, it’s been longer since I met someone who felt the same way” whilst the yelped, “I got plaaaaaaaaayed” backing vocals in the chorus are equal parts comedy and tragedy. Cries At The Movies tells the tale of a girl who, “only cries at the movies, keeps it together the rest of the time” and, “never feels the sadness, says it’s not her style” before Emma imparts some of her wisdom her way, noting, “for each of the times we’re happiest there will be times we feel low, so don’t try to hide the emptiness just let it go.”
The albums finest moment is unquestionably its last, the sublime When I Was Your Age. The track was written following a conversation between Emma and her grandparents about what they were doing at her age, which go from the relatively mundane, “when I was your age I had two kids and a wife” through to, “when I was your age I had toured with Blondie, when I was your age I had practiced polyamory” is yelped over a delightfully scuzzy guitar line, the whole track laced with the bristling energy of feedback, even in the more downbeat breakdowns the guitar takes on a delightful fuzz as Emma looks at her own life with a sense of disappointment, “I’m twenty eight years old now what have I got to show, I have a job I live in a rented house, I’m going nowhere”, Well Mammoth Penguins can now all add, “I released one of the best indie-pop albums of the year” to their list of achievement, because this album is a belter.
Those who believe music should always be forward gazing and progressive may find this collection a little retro and lacking in new ideas, but even the most adventurous of music progressives would struggle to not enjoy the sheer quality and craftsmanship of this splendid set.
Hide and Seek is out via Fortuna Pop on July 10th. Mammoth Penguins play The Lexington on July 21st and a set at Indietracks on Saturday July 25th.