My Sad Captains are the latest addition to the Bella Union family, bringing with them a third album that further defines their exquisitely tailored, subtly expressive and melodically radiant songcraft. Like the brilliant 1961 poem by the late Thom Gunn from which the London-based quartet takes its name, a sparingly deployed assemblage of words and emotions shows that less can be so much more.
The nine songs that comprise Best Of Times have an almost underplayed guitar-pop sensibility reminiscent of many classic indie bands of the 80s. But neither are they any kind of throwback, with suitably restrained and delicate shades of keyboards and a beautiful clarity of sound that’s distinctly 21st century.
The band was formed by Ed Wallis (vocals, guitar), Nick Goss (guitar, sonics), Jim Wallis (drums, keyboards, vocals) and Dan Davis (bass) and released early singles on Fortuna Pop! and White Heat before recording two albums for Stolen Recordings, 2009’s Here & Elsewhere and 2011’s Fight Less, Win More. But with Bella Union MD Simon Raymonde including the latter one in his Best of 2011 albums, it wasn’t long before they had signed to his label and were self-producing a third album at Bella Union’s studios in Hackney, East London before it was mixed in Portland, Oregon by Larry Crane (Elliott Smith, Stephen Malkmus).
Best Of Times also mirrors the band’s visual aesthetic. Both practising artists, Goss (alongside his brother Phil) has done all MSC’s artwork while Davis has directed two of the band’s videos and a film they use on stage. “Self-sufficiency is important, from the artwork to producing the records,” says Wallis. “Perhaps we are an indie band in the old and true sense, kind of an English art-school band. For Best Of Times, we commissioned nine artists to respond to individual songs, which came back as a wonderful and eclectic range including screen prints, oil on paper and photo collage.” The set of nine works is an art book that houses the vinyl, in a limited edition of one thousand copies.