Heart Shaped Circles - Evelyn's Vineyard

Owain Paciuszko 31/07/2010

Rating: 4/5

Jangling acoustic guitars strummed feverishly and half-shouted, half-sung vocals instantly remind of Graham Coxon's lighter moments on Happiness in Magazines, though without the grumpy bitterness of that record, Heart Shaped Circles produce glistening summery pop that straddles the line between something a tad Newton Faulkner and something more alternative. Opening track Evelyn is a glorious ode to lost times and its rich full sound - acoustic, electric, bass, drums, brass and multiple vocals - completely disguise the fact that this is all the product of just one chap.

Strangely on The Way We Are he channels Damon Albarn in light playful mode, the drum-beat skips happily down the road, whilst his voice remains pleasingly broken and cracked, then a twinkly cacophony of glockenspiels accompanies him to uplifting effect. Similarly The Fear is a spooky acoustic number which sounds like a collaboration between Albarn and Bon Iver in its combination of the urban ('The cracking concrete is pushing you apart.') and its heart-warming desolation, backing vocals soak into the sound like inky lines on blotting paper.

The Vineyard is Heart Shaped Circles bid to be Sigur Ros and whilst its a successful collection of random chatter, a collage of scattered instrumentation and reverberating indecipherable vocals it acts as more of a bridge from the dark edged The Fear into the bitter-pop of Happy Man. The closing track has a steady synthesised drum line and strummed acoustic guitar, whilst he sings with a sneer; 'You've got a stupid hair cut. A new found confidence. It's gonna get you noticed, it's gonna please your friends.' Alas where the chorus should soar with hollered cynicism it comes up a little short, and additions like the twinkly bells feel like old ideas already better exploited. It's a shame, because this track has all the makings of a great, rousing closer, with a similar teen-angst vibe to PJ & Gaby's A Collection of Thoughts. Sadly this track never finds the right tone and winds up as the wrong kind of downer ending.

The first three tracks on this record are fine examples of wry, modern, alternative pop and though they may not be able to put Heart Shaped Circles on the map, they'll certainly go some way to finding him landing co-ordinates. A track like Happy Man shows that he's still got some way to come in order to finesse his sound on record, but the song hidden behind the misguided production is undoubtedly a corker and I eagerly anticipate his future attempts to either polish these pop nuggets or bring us something entirely new.