Little Green Cars
In spite of music sales falling off a cliff in this country in recent times, there’s been no shortage of Irish acts making it relatively big, at least as big as it is possible to get in a world where HMV and Xtra-Vision have all but vanished from the high street.
This type of success has so far eluded some of the more interesting bands Ireland at the moment; neo-noiseniks like Girl Band, fuzzy synth weirdos No Spill Blood and the space pop excursions of All Tvvins. While these groups have struggled to break through to a mainstream audience (barring the possible exception of All Tvvins), there’s been no lack of safe, middle of the road “indie” artists who make vague stabs at the genre. The Script, who somehow managed to headline Croke Park last summer, Kodaline, Hozier, Hudson Taylor and Walking On Cars have all emerged at the forefront of Irish music recently, and it’s quite likely that with Ephemera, Little Green Cars will cement their place in this particular pack.
Ephemera opens with the unfortunately-titled ‘The Song They Play Every Night’, a mid-tempo folk pop song where singer Stevie Appleby ponders how you “could love me now if you didn’t love me before” (don’t make him “say that out loud”). This is as generic as it sounds, and it sets the tone for roughly the first half of the album. Appelby shares vocal duties with Faye O’Rourke and they share a tendency to come across as dangerously earnest at times. At its worst, this results in the bland, generic folk, like ‘Easier Day’, where O’Rourke has been “feeling this way for a long time” only to assure us, repeatedly, that “it gets better”, which brings back unpleasant memories of every act that tried to cash in on the success of Mumford & Sons.
At its best, when Appleby and O’Rourke harmonise on tracks like ‘The Garden of Death’ and ‘Brother’, Ephemera feels overtly ambitious and just-a-little-bit-too-precious Arcade Fire without the pomp. A lot of songs simply fade out instead of having proper endings, and this only emphasises the undercooked songwriting. This first half becomes all the more regrettable as the album reaches its conclusion, because there is some seriously enjoyable writing on display towards the end of Ephemera.
‘Clare De Lune’, with some synth lines that come across as ethereal instead of cheesy and an unconventional chorus melody, is the first track that leaves a lasting impression, and it’s only uphill from there. ‘Ok Ok Ok’ morphs from a single piano into a genuinely pretty coda and ‘Winds of Peace’ actually grabs you from the get go. The albums highlights are no doubt Like ‘Good Women Do’ and ‘The Party’, tracks that actually feel like they have some heft to them, with fuzzy synth lines and singing that conveys real emotion instead of generic earnestness, where O’Rourke channels her inner Dolores O’Riordan. Album closer ‘The Factory’ sees O’Rourke and Appleby proclaim together that they’re “alive again”, and this proves to be both a tantalising conclusion, because it manages to sound fresh and interesting, and a frustrating one, because it makes you wonder why about 35 of the preceding 50 minutes weren’t this good.
Honestly, there’s very little on Ephemera that offends the senses. Most of the songs are quite short, so it trundles along easily and even at its worst points there’s never really enough there to seriously dislike. If you’re the type of music fan who longs for the days when “real music” with “real instruments” you’ll likely consider Ephemera a reliable effort. If, however, you’re not that type of fan then it’s unlikely you’ll feel the need to revisit.