Standard Fare

The Noyelle Beat

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The Sheffield-based Standard Fare are, on the face of it, exactly the kind of perfect indie pop that generations of critics constantly dream of -- they're British, they make a virtue of being understated and ragged around the corners, and they're dedicated to the idea that the basic guitar-bass-drums format will never die. But given that generations of bands have pursued the same combination, the trio needs to aim higher to stand out. On their debut, they show promise without fully making a stamp of their own yet. Their strongest point lies in the singing of bassist Emma Kupa -- there's an unsettled, quavering edge in songs like "Love Doesn't Just Stop" or "Fifteen" that steers clear of prim formality for something just that much messier, much more yearning, which matches the romantic angst featured throughout. At her sweetest, as on "Married," she still has a catch in her singing that suits the sense of a big step taken in life, while her turn on the closest thing to an anthem on the album, "Philadelphia," captures the sheer rush and frustration of long-distance love perfectly along with the music. In contrast, guitarist Danny How's singing is fine enough but somewhat more anonymous in comparison -- in a way, it's a parallel to the band's contemporaries the XX, even if the music is radically different. For all of the band's sense of their hearts being in the right place, though, The Noyelle Beat has the feeling of those many acts who loved the Smiths two decades earlier but didn't quite have the range both Morrissey and Marr brought from their backgrounds to the form -- it's a pleasant album for what it is, but the bandmembers need to build on their best qualities in the future.

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