Music Reviews
Black Forest (Tra La La)

Pale Young Gentlemen Black Forest (Tra La La)

(Science of Sound) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

Boasting a moniker that could easily be used to describe the majority of the No Ripcord staff, Madison, Wisconsin's Pale Young Gentlemen is an indie band very much on the up.

When Alan Shulman reviewed its self-titled début a mere sixteen months ago, PYG was just another unsigned indie band, albeit it one with a pretty cool name and a cellist. Now, with a clutch of enthusiastic reviews and modest sales under its belt, PYG is back with a polished follow-up, an extended line-up and, crucially, the backing of Madison's hottest independent label, Science of Sound.

Like many second albums, Black Forest (Tra La La) immediately sounds like a more grown up record than its predecessor. The off-kilter indie sound remains, as do the Eastern European folk influences, but the band's sound is much richer now; alongside the distinctive cello, we are treated to violins, violas, glockenspiels, harps and horns. And mostly it pays off.

The frantic riffing of Coal/Ivory hints at a heightened sense of urgency; it’s as if PYG knows that this is its moment and, accordingly, there is an audible determination not to screw it up. More established contemporaries at the quirkier end of the indie-rock canon (Tapes ‘N Tapes, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!) have publicly stumbled at this stage in their careers, with costly results; a smaller band PYG might not have survived such a slip.

Fortunately, PYG remembered to write some great tunes: Marvellous Design, The Crook of My Good Arm and Kettle Drum (I Left a Note) are all worlds apart from anything on the aforementioned bands' sluggish sophomore efforts. In fact, in terms of indie-rock music based chiefly around orchestral string instruments, there’s absolutely nothing in the same class as Pale Young Gentlemen in 2008.

Black Forest (Tra La La) is proof that growing up on record doesn’t have to sound boring. Those looking for a sombre accompaniment for the wintry evenings ahead could do a hell of a lot worse than pick up this superb record.