• antarctica takes it! The Penguin League (CD, £4.70)

    label: How Does It Feel to Be Loved

    Debut album by a four piece, from Santa Cruz, CA, whose joyous folk pop has been compared to Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists and Beirut. A bedroom band put together by 22-year-old Dylan McKeever, Antarctica Takes It! recorded the songs on “The Penguin League” straight onto a friend’s laptop, using the computer’s internal microphone. No problem if you’re a straightforward rock’n’roll band, but Dylan’s songs boasted an array of accordions, glockenspiels, cellos, ukuleles, trumpets, harmonicas and pianos. The result should have been extremely lo-fi – and in places it is (you can actually hear the instruments battling for airspace at some points). But overall, thanks to Dylan’s patience and prodigious talent, “The Penguin League” conjures a tiny orchestra out of thin air. From the opening “I’m No Lover”, which sees mariachi horns collide with a rattling folk melody, to the magical “Flightless Birds”, which transports “Pet Sounds” to the Antarctic wastes, this is a record that sounds like it’s anywhere but a suburban bedroom on the American West Coast. In fact, lyrically and spiritually, Antarctica Takes It! reside, as their names suggests, slightly further south. The album’s highlight, “Antarctica”, sees the band knee deep in a polar expedition, while the photos for the cover and CD booklet were provided by Dr Samuel Silverstein, who headed the 1967 American Antarctic Mountaineering Expedition. Dr Silverstein also writes about his photos in the booklet, which makes this the first album to be released with sleevenotes by an Antarctic explorer.

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