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Antarctica Takes It! - The Penguin League

At times as lo-fi as Daniel Johnston, early Pavement, or anything off the Rough Trade indie-pop compilation.

At times as lo-fi as Daniel Johnston, early Pavement, or anything off the Rough Trade indie-pop compilation.

As most people can testify with some vengeance, there’s indie and there’s indie; the first one often loathed and detested for its hypocrisy and unoriginality, the second embraced and loved for its authenticity and creativity. Antarctica Takes It!’s debut, ‘The Penguin League’, is as indie as they come.

Originally recorded on a laptop through a simple internal microphone and sold independently for $6 in 2006 and now picked up by How Does it Feel, the record is at times as lo-fi as Daniel Johnston, early Pavement, or anything off the Rough Trade indie-pop compilation.

The sounds of the ‘mini-orchestra’ that includes violin, cello, trumpet and accordion, beautifully battling with one another for supremacy of the lone mic, with singer and songwriter Dylan McKeever’s tentative vocals in the background. ‘My Friend Sam Saarni’ presents this perfectly, and you can feel your ears trying to distinguish between all these various sounds emerging.

‘I’m No Lover’ is sort of civil war in every sense, with McKeever and Maria Schoettler’s soft vocals battling with the ominous lyrics of hate and viciousness, which are fighting to get through this short yet beautiful armoury of sound. It’s twee, yet dark and menacing, and harks back to ‘Tigermilk’-era Belle and Sebastian.

However, the music reaches moments where it is surprisingly crisp and tight. ‘Antarctica’ recounts an expedition’s journey into deepest Antarctica that at first starts out sedate, explodes into colour and life, and then culminates in an ambiguous ending that suggests death in a largely lifeless place.

‘The Penguin League’ is a quintessential indie-pop record. On the surface it’s pretty, harmless and remains true to the ethos of indie music of being exactly that: independent, and free from initial constraints.

But underneath, there’s a moving, at times dark, at times gloomy, at times stirring and joyous sentiment; it’s a play on emotions, and you’re never sure where to go with it. ‘The Penguin League’ could well be the start of something rather special for Antarctica Takes It!, and you’d be utterly stupid to ignore it.

Tags: Antarctica Takes It!, Reviews, Album Reviews

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