Herman Dune - Giant

If you’ve not already met the wonderful world of Herman Dune, then ‘Giant’ is the perfect chance to become converted.

Rating: 9

If ‘Giant’ has to be your introduction to the multi-cultural indie anti-folksters’ brand of twee-lyric alt-pop, then so be it. ‘Giant’ is a wonderous, though at sixteen tracks a tad long, album packed full of brilliantly orchestrated, well travelled but subtle, faith-restoring indie. It’s unlikely that you’ll hear a better record any time soon.

The production is warm and intimate; you can picture the Herman Dune siblings gathered around an apartment, with the obligatory rug on the wall and joss sticks gradually burning, while an ashtray steadily fills and the collection of empty beer bottles steadily grows. In truth, this is probably not dissimilar from the way in which it was recorded, all live, on old analogue equipment, a couple of vintage microphones at a mate’s flat.

It sounds all the better for it, David Ivar Herman Dune and Andre Herman Dune’s incredibly nuanced vocals sound glorious, while Lisa Li-Lund’s backings are as sweet as sin, sounding like a Spector girl. The smorgasbord instruments used are all recorded with remarkably natural sounding fidelity. Though the Herman Dune family extends its reach globally, and as such the instruments, styles and structures collected could easily fall in to the dodgy category of ‘world music’, Herman Dune’s sound is constructed in a familiar Western Pop style. It deals with widely empathised themes such as love, homesickness and missing loved ones, even if it’s placed in the globe-trotting bohemian context of the Herman Dunes’ hermit lifestyles.

Opening track and lead single ‘I Wish That I Could See You Soon’ perfectly encapsulates the album’s themes, and is as brilliant as previous classics such as ‘You Could Be A Model, Goodbye’ and ‘Suburbs With You’. The title effectively reveals the song’s content; David Ivar sings of missing his other half while on tour, and Lisa’s backing vocals question what he’d do if his missus has moved on. The acoustic and simple drum backing keeps everything neat, while the lead guitar is playful but not overcomplicated, but it’s the joyous horns and David’s touching, warbling lyrics that are the song’s - and some of the album’s - highlights. The same theme reappears a few times on the album, perhaps laboured on ‘1-2-3/Apple Tree’. Another highlight of David’s contributions towards the first half is ‘Take Him Back To New York City’, where as the title suggests, it’s about homesickness.

This take-it-in-turns approach is key to keeping the album fresh - a track by David followed by an Andre number, and so on. ‘Bristol’ is Andre’s best offering on the record, and one of numerous contenders for best track. It certainly contains the best line (‘you whispered to be ‘people whisper when a baby sleep”) - it’s so softly sung, it’s arresting.

Disappointingly, the Andre songs ‘No Master’ and ‘This Summer’ are perhaps the album’s weakest points, both empty of lyrical substance, despite making vague attempts to pay lip service to politics. That’s not to suggest they’re any less catchy, just lack the emotive strength of the rest of the record.

Ignoring the instrumental closer ‘Mrs Bigger’, the last four songs are also its most interesting and philosophical - especially David’s ‘I’d Rather Walk Than Run’ and Andre’s ‘Glory Of Old’, both revealing the brothers’ respective personal philosophies.

‘Giant’ is an album made of rare stuff. Multiple listenings are rewarded and encouraged. The lyrics are some of the best of our time, beautifully constructing narrative and conveying emotions, and the melodies and instrumentation are both exotic and familiar. An awe-inspiring alternative to the usual indie dross, if you’ve not already met the wonderful world of Herman Dune, then ‘Giant’ is the perfect chance to become converted.