Come Christmas and you’ll find me decking the halls to a soundtrack of Lisa Mychols Spector-esque Lost Winter’s Dream. While in the summer there’s no more perfect companion to the sun, sea and sand of, er, North London, than Drop Out with The Barracudas. For that odd period in early winter, though, when the nights are drawing in, the weather’s brass monkeys and there’s even a hint of snow, it has to be a cosy night in with April March and Los Cincos.
Renaissance woman (she animates, records in French, hangs out with Jack White) April March has been around the US indie scene for donkeys, largely making albums that pay homage to her heroes Gallic songsmith Serge Gainsbourg and his Eurovision winning prodigy France Gall. Almost all are well worth tracking down, especially the superb Chrominance Decoder and the almost-as-good Triggers. However the one to own is the 1998 album she made with US band Los Cincos.
Although recorded in California, the album sounds as if the band were squirreled away in some New England barn with just the wind, snow and the local wildlife for company. It is such a wonderfully moody piece it’ll have you checking the speakers for icicles. It’s beautifully recorded too, with nods to late sixties Brit folk, Ye Ye French ’60s pop and even a whiff of garage and surf guitar. She has got such good taste.
Every song is a wintry gem from the twangy opener Theme For The Lime Cafe to the album’s gorgeous orchestrated finale Last Train To Christmas (reprise). Along the way you get The Moon Is Blue, which is how Astrid Gilberto might’ve sounded had she been born in Reykjavik rather than Rio, and The Winter Cave a jaunty, folky ballad with the full festive trimmings of rich harmonies and melancholy strings.
Then there’s the astonishing cover of late sixties Brit folkie Vashti’s Jagger/Richards penned Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind. April’s version even outdoes the original by turning it into a country-esque hoe-down of the type Mazzy Star used to revel in before they got famous. Like the best things in life, it is over all too quickly. Odd isn’t it that someone called April March* should have made such an autumnal record? Even odder that it is so beautiful and so unique.
* Ok, so I know she’s really Elinor Blake.