As Neat as a New Pin
In 2009 my folk-indie-pop group Empty Set released our debut recording As Neat as a New Pin on London’s Tough Love Records.
The album features nine original recordings: seven new songs on the subject of absent love and science along with our takes on two classics by The Jesus & Mary Chain and Cole Porter.
The tracks were recorded and produced by Jacob Maddoms in the basements, gardens and bar rooms of Coventry, England.
Empty Set write tender love songs set against a backdrop of musical gentility, which make up the duo's sweet debut, As Neat As A New Pin.
The topics of their songs include physics, bad handwriting, Canadian journalists and French mathematicians.
Impressively, such oddities are not forced in for effect, as the topics weave so easily in with the sparing accompaniments that you just know that they're there because it's just how songwriter Tommy Ogden thinks.
Of course, decent lyrics are only one half of any musical battle and thankfully they come supported by satisfying, if occasionally over-sparse, little melodies to make songs as neat and tidy as the album title suggests.
You might be thinking by now that the Empty Set have it all. And you’d be right, they do. So you have no excuse whatsoever for not listening to their music.
88 out of 100.
The pace varies subtley, from the jaunty pleasures of Alice & Bob, to the more moody, and rather surprising, version of Some Candy Talking. These ups and downs are quite gentle though, so it would be easy to allow the noise of life around you to overwhelm this album when you play it. I would be careful not to let that happen though, because it really is worth the attention if you sit down and really listen to it. It’s a total curve ball from Tough Love, and an absolute corker.
It is between these two points that As Neat As A New Pin exists; sometimes it behaves as a typical folk album, all soft vocals and delicate ukuele, other times it veers off into a soundtrack of tape loops and droning strings. It’s this willingness to experiment, coupled with a lyrical slant as concerned with science and mathematics as it is with unrequited love, that makes Empty Set more than just another twee, folk outfit.
7 out of 10.
The winner of the evening, however, is ‘My Girl’s on the Other Side of the World’, which lacks the humour of the other songs, but sounds really like a song you would be happy to play at a campfire on a hot summer evening. The song is, despite its subject, such an inspiration of joy that when you’ve listened to it, you would actually go to the shopping centre, buy yourself a ukulele and campfire and learn to play it. And if you’re not able to learn it, you just throw it in your new campfire. Because that’s kind of the spirit of this song and of the album: little things in life turning into problems. And, sometimes, how to make them disappear.