…friday, I’m in love #01 – handsome furs

I thrive on new music. I need it. I crave it. Sometimes I find new bands. Sometimes bands find me. Happy accidents or welcome suggestions from friends. A blog link here. A random video there. Overheard in a CD store, or on the radio. So many paths to follow. Degrees of separation.

So many ways to find new soundtracks to life.

Friday, I’m in Love aims to tell the stories of how I came to find some of my favourite music. Usually – more often than not – they come on a Friday. Some of these bands have been with me forever, others are very, very new to me, my iPod and my world. Whether they’ll stick around, I couldn’t tell you, but for now they seem to make some kind of sense.

And as is my usual method, I’m starting at the end. Hope you enjoy.

The who: Handsome Furs
The what:
Face Control
Sounds like:
The bastard love children of Bruce Springsteen & New Order.
The when:
Friday the 13th of March, 2009

The how: While checking through my articles on Google Reader late Thursday night (which, from memory may as well have been early Friday morning), I came across a link to the new Bat For Lashes clip, “Daniel” on Stereogum. My three main reasons for clicking the link were – I keep hearing about Bat for Lashes, but I’d never actually heard them, their new album cover has a pretty rad reference to The Karate Kid on it, and I like bands names that have the word ‘Bat’ in them.

I watch it, and it’s good. Not amazing, but I rather like the song and some of the imagery in the clip. Just below, there’s a mention and link to the new Handsome Furs’ video “I’m Confused“. I’ve never heard of the band, but I can’t sleep, so I decide to keep browsing and watch the clip, linked for your enjoyment below (please note, there’s a flash of zombie boob a couple of minutes in. Very quick, but might not be considered SFW):

My hazy, sleep deprived, initial impressions go something like this:

“Ooo, this is pretty. Very pretty. Beautifully shot and rather eerie. That droning sound is getting on my nerves though. Hrm, drum machines could go either way, but I like the electronic clapping. And, this riff is a bit naff, but hey it’s kinda catchy. (All of a sudden I’m inadvertently clapping along, my hand tapping the side of the bed [1]) These vocals are pretty good too. I think I like this!”

By now, I’ve stopped paying attention to the clip, but it looks interesting. Something like a combination of 1979 and Dawn of the Dead. Sometime shortly after this, I fall asleep.

Daylight come, as does work, and sometime before me gotta go home, I decide to look a little further into these Handsome Furs. My usual process goes – hit up my music blogs for any recent reviews, interviews or mentions, find their myspace, and check youtube for any live performances, videos, or those clips were people just play a song over a still image, cause “you really gotta hear this song man, it’s frakin’ awesome!” In amongst my searches, I find a clip of the band playing live on the radio station somewhere. While I’ve liked what I’ve heard so far, what sells me completely is the story of this band. It’s something kind of … magical. The below clip is around 10 minutes, but at the start you’ll get their story, then a song, and then an interview.

They had me at ‘hello’. Or, something like it:

For those of you who couldn’t be arsed, the short story goes:

“… In some ways the story of our next guests’ reads like a rock and roll fairy tale. Small town boy moves to big city where he meets cute girl at a dead end job. They fall in love, start a band, make a really good record, get married, tour the world and live happily ever after.

That’s the heavily abridged story of Montreal based duo Handsome Furs. The reality is a little more complicated, though no less fascinating…”

And that’s it. I’m sold. They’ve not even performed their song yet (“Legal Tender” for those playing at home), and I’m in love with this band. Then they play the song, and my opinion doesn’t change.

On my way home, I visit both 78 Records and JB and neither have Face Control, their new album. Someone mentions it’s on order, suggesting it’s only just come out. I pout a little and move on. It’s not till later, when looking for Friday night DVDs at Galaxy Entertainment (just down the road from me), do I find it on an actual shelf to actually purchase. Plus, Galaxy do 10% off CDs and DVDs on a Friday [2].

I’m sold. Or, rather, I bought.

The why I like it: This is always a hard one. Explaining why a band or song just ‘clicks’ with me is like trying to explain how birds work. They just do. With Handsome Furs, I think a lot of it has to do with the DIY aesthetic. I’ve always been a fan of simple, uncomplicated music made with very little. Which is not to say I don’t like gigantic, fantastic, bombastically layered symphonies, it’s just that, right now, smaller seems to work better with my ears.

In addition to this, they’ve got a real knack for hooks that sneak up and catch you off guard. Often, you’ll hear a guitar riff or keyboard … bit [3] that borrows heavily from another place. For instance, the first track off Face Control, “Legal Tender” (linked above) has some very pronounced shades of Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”. Later in the album, “Nyet Spasiba” has a not-so-subtle nod to “Blue Monday” that, while coming from some bands may seem like a cheap rip-off, for some reason, somehow, here it works. With Handsome Furs, it’s an affectionate nod. An acknowledgment of inspiration. Or, perhaps they aim to recall the listener’s own memories of the song – like a subtle trigger. A simple reminder.

I’ve had Face Control on repeat for the best part of the last week, and it doesn’t seem to want to leave any time soon. I’ve read Dan has come from another one of those band I’ve read about but not heard – Wolf Parade. While they’re now on my list to check out, they’re going to have a hard time pushing Handsome Furs out of the way.

Still, none of that really explains the why, and I think this is going to be one of those cases where the why may not ever come. I’m fully aware that Handsome Furs won’t be everyone’s thing, and I’m ok with that. For the record, this is not a review. Nor am I hear to sell you the music I just happen to like. While I didn’t set out with the intention of throwing another music blog on a gigantic pile that’s already collapsing under the weight of itself, the more I write, the more I realise that this is what is important to me. That the story I want to tell is buried somewhere in here, amongst all these songs and albums. So many of my life experiences are wrapped up in the music I listen to. The challenge I have now is not only trying to find the story, but to somehow search for the words that convey how it makes me feel when I find a band or song or album that fits. That clicks. That makes a connection.

[1] If you know me, you know how I love a clap-along. If you don’t, then you’ve just learned something. You’ve also learnt I take my laptop to bed. That one you get for free.

[2] Not a plug, just saying.

[3] What’s the keyboard equivalent of a riff? A tinkle, perhaps?


Author: Mark Ampersand

Budding writer, connoisseur of fine popular culture and Batman fan.

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