The New Mendicants

Into the Lime

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Some pairings make perfect sense right from the start. When Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) and Joe Pernice (Pernice Brothers) announced in 2013 that they had started a new band together, fans of classic, harmony-driven guitar pop recognized a winning formula. Arriving in early 2014, the New Mendicants' debut LP Into the Lime contains all of the classy songcraft, jangling guitars, and big harmonies fans expected and it almost comes as a relief that the two beloved songsmiths didn't use this project as a platform for some other sort of wild artistic experimentation. Along with drummer Mike Belitsky of the Sadies (the only native Canadian in this Toronto-based trio), Blake and Pernice play to their strengths, delivering ten strong new songs that echo not just their own bands, but classic '60s influences like the Hollies and the Byrds. From the opening organ/piano riff of "Sarasota," the band's arrangements are subtly thrilling, yet comfortably laid-back. There's a very relaxed, unhurried atmosphere to the album which speaks of the members' many years of friendship and combined studio experience. The sublime "Cruel Annette" blend the two singers' styles into something new to both, while the gentle "If You Only Knew Her" comes across like a blend of Chad and Jeremy's wistful classic "A Summer Song" and Nick Lowe's stately late-career output. Several of the album's songs were originally intended to soundtrack the film adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel A Long Way Down, but even when the Mendicants are singing about suicide and depression, like on "A Very Sorry Christmas Eve," they go easy, adding those big harmonic choruses which have melted the hearts of so many Teenage Fanclub listeners. There are buzzy guitars along with piano and organ ornamentations that will please fans of orchestrated pop, but the focus remains largely on the top-notch songwriting and the pleasing blend of voices and familiar styles. While it would be a shame to let the Mendicants' future impede the progress of any new records by the group's flagship bands, this is a wonderful debut and certainly worthy of a follow-up album.

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