Me and My Drummer - The Hawk, The Beak, The Prey
Me and My Drummer don't exactly have the most imaginative of names, and their origin story is unusual but not shocking by any means. Charlotte Brandi and Matze Pröllochs met through the theatre; both wrote music for plays and eventually found the courage to step forward and take the stage themselves. Yet, something has happened along the way, and it's the kind of elemental chemistry you just couldn't predict; band or audience. Something, somehow, that has made for a stunning debut of utter originality the likes of which will be hard to rival for some time.
At a glance, the overall feel of The Hawk, The Beak, The Prey does contain some semblance of the theatricality suggested by their heritage, but all the edges have been sanded down meticulously to a much smoother work. Really, the melodic melodrama only vaguely permeates maybe every other song comprising the 40 minutes (divided by ten). What persists however is a combination of Brandi's unpretentious but heavily textured voice, used in a similar, almost 'instrumental' manner like Regina Spektor or Joe Newman (Alt-J) and the sumptuous, yet stripped back arrangements.
Indeed, whilst the album benefits of course from studio production, it's not a case of hundreds of layers and multi-tracking; the majority of the album is precisely what the band are capable of live, and it's testament to their sensitive and heart-felt compositions that despite being limited to a piano/synth, vocals and a drum-kit, each song feels distinct, full and rounded. Charting a path from the heavily atmospheric, slightly morose melodies of the first tracks ('Phobia', 'Rain Kids', 'You're a Runner') across a more varied, soulful middle third (The jazzy 'Don't Be So Hot', 'Down My Couch' and the Gregorian-esque a cappella backing of 'The Wings') and finishing with the like of my personal favourite 'Heavy Weight' and the noticeably more down-tempo 'So Foreign', this album travels some significant musical ground.
Of course, no album is ever flawless, but apart from 'Mother Shell' which takes a little longer than usual to get going and feels stark, and at odds sandwiched between two such vivacious songs with its darker imagery and foreboding, slightly over-long minimalism, this is a work so comfortable in its own skin as to deflect any real criticism. To return to Alt-J as a comparison point, this feels like a debut that has welled up from a surging necessity to tell these stories, to express these musical ideas, and as such has consistently forced me to listen to the entire album even if I'd planned on only dipping into a song or two.
The Hawk, The Beak, The Prey is a wonderful, affecting album of verve and versatility that will struggle to find a rival six months either side of its release, if not more. I was sent the album many months before its scheduled release date, which ended up being postponed until now, and it still feels as fresh as it did in that first week; and I've listened to it multiple times every week since without fail. Without sounding cheap it can be catchy, and without being trite it can be utterly emotive. For a duo no less to have produced an album that swells like this is a real achievement, and it's without a doubt a contender for album of the year.
Purchase and listen
Opening with some gentle piano that is soon accompanied by some sumptuous vocals, Me and My Drummer's 'Don't Be So Hot' is immediately attention grabbing. There’s a hint of Charlotte Brandi's German accent as she sings "I want to believe in magic" in perfect English, while the aesthetics of the song recall Slow Club's quieter moments and Regina Spektor’s quirkiness. [read more]
A captivating early performance of the German duo's debut album. [read more]