Cards on the table before we even start this review. I love Emma Kupa. Well, her songwriting at least. It was lucky that her six song mini album Home Cinema lifted me from my depressive slumber following the split of Standard Fare, one of,if not the first, group ever to appear on Backseat Mafia. A move to Cambridge meant a change of scenery for Kupa, who met up with Mark and Tom, previously of bands such as Puncture Repair Kit and The Pony Collaboration, signed with purveyors of fine indie pop, Fortuna Pop! and got to work.
The result is the bands first long-player, Hide and Seek. As with Kupa’s previous output, its not challenging listening or highly elaborate music. Neither is it literary quotes, philosophical musings or political treaties. What it is full of is melody, Kupa’s soaring vocal, straight up indie rock sensibilites (a little bit more noisy and masculine than her previous incarnations) and gentle, neatly wrapped and poetic musings on emotion, and life at the end of your twenties.
This new almost pop-punk Emma Kupa (maybe its the move to guitar?) hits you between the eyes right from the off with opener Work it Out, where the verses are supercharged but the choruses hazy affairs. Follow on Propped Up is classic, almost slightly wonky indie pop, the call and response vocals scuffed up by the messy guitar over the top as Kupa regales us with advice about looking towards other people when we need cheering up.
Cries at the movies (she only cries at the movies / keeps it together the rest of the time, sings Kupa) could almost be a Belle and Sebastien song, as it deals in tunes of a pure but melancholy nature, but there’s always this restlessness about things, as it rings the changes (not least the chord changes) almost at will. Postcards however is upbeat, frankly lovable, as it gives the listener (or is it just the recipient?) advice on cheering up your partner.
Elsewhere on the record, it’s fairly evident there’s no real filler on Hide and Seek. Strength in my Legs sounds like it could be The Cribs on the 6-string, while Played, as well as its Motown torch song stylings, also has the kind of chorus you can kick back and wallow in. March of the Penguins deals with that dificult subject of growing up, as does (to an extent) closer When I was Your Age, but Mammoth Penguins are at their best in dance along / sing along hits such as the brilliant ‘Make A Difference’ or the soaring ‘Chewing Gum’.
If you can’t find things to love about Hide and Seek, there’s something dead inside of you. Me, I love it.