[ download ]
Long before the term “twee” lost its subcultural cachet and Zooey Deschanel had her own sitcom on Fox, Lupe Núñez-Fernández was helping reshape the twee aesthetic as half of the shamefully overlooked indie-pop act Pipas. Alongside Londoner Mark Powell, the native Spaniard Fernández whipped up songs in fleeting bursts which were precious (though never cloyingly so). Pipas built a modest yet exceptionally ardent fan base by taking a relaxed approach to their performances–one I caught a decade ago was dappled with apologies for missed chords or botched lyrics–but they always somehow managed to make it work.
Now Fernández has struck up another collaboration with a different Englishman. This time around, it’s Alasdair MacLean from another longtime favorite (and previously spotlighted) act, The Clientele. The new duo has united under the sobriquet of Amor de Días and the results illustrate just how well-suited the pair are for one another’s musical leanings. Separately, both of the members’ other projects have had distinct musical arcs: Pipas’ output progressively moved away from their lo-fi bedsit pop origins toward faster paced songs propelled by drum machine beats, while The Clientele ditched some of their delicate vaporousness in favor of more enterprising arrangements.
In many respects, “Bunhill Fields” is the apotheosis of these two musical arcs intersecting. The third track from the band’s new Merge Records debut, The Street of the Love of Days, begins with a hushed, hollow programmed beat that casually bulks up as the song moves forward. Acoustic guitar and Fernández’s vocals are the next instruments to enter the mix; they do so simultaneously and with similarly whispered notes.
Once the chorus drops, Amor de Días presses hard on the gas. The trumpet bursts and undulating strings of The Clientele’s recent efforts are ushered in and the song suddenly becomes as robust as its early moments were austere. It is impressive to have such contrasts contained within such a brief song, and even if Amor de Días is a partnership that sounds exactly like you might imagine it will, that is positively not ashame. On “Bunhill Fields,” Fernández and MacLean provide indie-pop listeners with a lot to love.