The Indie Equation

The Unholy Marriage of Music and Math.


Equation #42: Tunng

Simulcast on


Good Arrows
Full Time Hobby/Thrill Jockey

To the 18-35 set passive aggression is seen as a generally bad thing; no one likes to be told something nasty in a sweet way, no one likes little pseudo-cute notes left on their toilet seats, refrigerators or desks informing them that “…it’d be great if we could go ahead and do it this way from now on....”. However, when it comes to music, passive aggression is a different thing entirely. Take Tunng’s new album Good Arrows, it’s record filled with dreamy, sweet acoustic numbers and happy melodies, real feel good stuff, however a deeper glance reveals the dark and despairing nougat center. Being told “It’s ok, because one day we will be dead” has never come across so cheerful.

Formed in the foggy crucible of London, Tunng began in 2003 as a collaboration between singer/songwriter Sam Genders and electronic dabbler Mike Lindsay but the desire to play live gigs necessitated pulling together a larger group to translate their sound on stage. Ashley Bates, Phil Winter, Becky Jacobs, and Martin Smith joined up and brought Tunng to life and though they are officially a “band” Tunng maintains that they’re at root a collective of separate scenes; each member is involved in multiple side projects and other bands. Think London’s version of Broken Social Scene, with lyrics about death and sadness.

What’s found within Good Arrows is often acoustic, multi-tracked vocals a-la Elliott Smith with some light to medium electronica tossed in behind the scenes. Tracks like “Hands” and “Take” recall the aforementioned Indie pioneer with the subdued use of vocal doubling and present acoustic guitar and reflect the bittersweet melding of cheerful music with somber lyrics. Once the album gets going we’re presented with the computerized foundation of Tunng, songs like “King and “Arms” feature glitchy electronic backbeats that range from Postal Service subtle to TV on the Radio manic but never overpower the consistent folk feel. This is not a genre that gets much attention in the broad spectrum of current music, but there are a few bands out there that do it well, Tunng is on the mellower side, but bands like Elbow and The Notwist, and to a further extent Belle and Sebastian, bridge the expanse between the classic Nick Drake folk and the modern Hot Chip technopop.

So while we sarcastic, jaded hipster elitists will sneer at any Baby Boomer’s attempt at “constructive” criticism, at least we’ll allow our music to give us life’s bad news. Or at the very least just depress the hell out of us.


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