Apparently, “‘millennial pink’ is the colour of now”. I didn’t make it up either, but at least it’s more fun than the ‘millennial whoop’ that went round the internet a couple months ago. After all, it is high time pink gets reappropriated.
In any case, some pretty pink album covers caught my eye recently, so I thought this would be a good time to write about this colourful palette, which offers variation despite its conformity to millennial aesthetics. We’ve got The Courtneys‘ The Courtneys II, Vagabon‘s Infinite Worlds, Los Campesinos!’ Sick Scenes, and Rat Columns’ Candle Power, so here we go.
(By the way, the irony of this whole feature is that I’m actually mildly colourblind. Luckily, music criticism is a subjective matter anyway!)
The Courtneys – The Courtneys II
This is a full, very pink kind of pink. Think candy floss or Bubblicious. It’s what I imagine Australians to be like: tall, tanned, bright toothpaste commercial smile, cool. (The Courtneys are actually from New Zealand, though). The songs sound pretty much like it. The Courtneys II contains some grandiose tracks – notably ‘Silver Velvet’ and ‘Lost Boys’ – but I can’t help thinking it’s a bit bland. There is not much to discover. Like candy, it reveals its sweet taste pretty much straightwaway. It’d be good music for in a car, mindlessly driving.
Of course, that’s the problem with this kind of pink in general. The Courtneys occupy the same waters as Best Coast, Dum Dum Girls and whatever was on that recent Slumberland/Fortuna Pop compilation. They’re better than some and worse than the others, but in the end candy floss has the same colour pink pretty much everywhere.
Los Campesinos! – Sick Scenes
The pastel pink of Sick Scenes‘ cover fits exactly right with the music. It’s that Belle & Sebastian aesthetic they’re going for – the milk girl lying on the supermarket floor is almost certainly someone who walked away from her Tigermilk song only to be found years later by Los Campesinos. It’s a colour that puts you in a mild and contemplative mood, receptive enough to the woes of other teenagers that you’d almost believe they were about your own youth.
As always with Los Campesinos, though, it can get too much. I haven’t been following them for a while, but if they’ve still got around 12 members then that’s no surprise. ‘The Fall of Home’ is the quintessential song on Sick Scenes, but also unusually quiet for this group. On ‘5 Flucloxacillin’ they find the right middle between melancholy and hyperenthusiastic overactive fun. That’s what pastel colours are too, of course: children drawing with crayons, all over the paper. Los Campesinos, at their worst, is like 12 children drawing on that same piece of paper. At their best, though, they are a faded high school photograph. And I have to say, on Sick Scenes they’re at their best quite a lot.
Vagabon – Infinite Worlds
This is the blandest shade of pink on this list – so much so it’s hardly identifyable as pink anyway. I guess it would have been called skin colour, which is ironic since Vagabon is a woman of colour. True to its cover, Infinite Worlds is desolate and empty, nothing of pink’s usual over-the-top brightness. Infinite World is empty walls, stripped of posters and personality, and indeed ‘Cold Apartment’ is about Vagabon moving out. It’s a beautiful track, by the way.
It’s Vagabon’s voice, of course, that carries it all, but voices never have colours. They’re just there, unremarkable or impressive, but always invisible. Sometimes, she sounds strong-headed and broken, like Daughter’s Elena Tonra. Other times, she’s rawer, at the same time more like those empty apartment walls but also less, as her voice becomes fuller while those walls become empty. On tracks like ‘The Ember’, Vagabon sounds like a stripped-down Hop Along.
I mentioned earlier that in a full colour pink, there’s hardly anything to discover. How different it is with this barely noticeable, apparently boring and frankly depressing shade. There’s more to it than the eye first reveals. The title Infinite Worlds is rather fitting.
Rat Columns – Candle Power
Last but certainly not least, Rat Columns. They’re saved for the end only because this is the most difficult shade of pink to characterise. It’s not bright or flashy, and yet it’s full and saturated. Somehow, I’m thinking it’s a colour for a rainy day, but I don’t know why. It’s the same with Rat Columns: hard to define. It’s wistful pop songs, sure, but there’s something about it. The music is personal, not in the way a poem about your feelings is, but like a gift to a close friend. And then there’s this colour pink, which I haven’t seen before, and maybe that’s what bothers me: it looks unfamiliar exactly because it’s personal, it’s not something I’m exactly part of, yet, but something I’m introduced to. I’m okay with that.
I’m reminded mostly of The Chills – that whole Flying Nun thing, really, but mostly the Chills. Despite their pure pop sensibilities, I still imagine rain whenever I listen to them. Rain and the backseat of a car at night. And like The Chills, Rat Columns doesn’t stick to one sound: they blend together catchier stuff like ‘She Loves the Rain’ with the darker ‘Northern Soul’ or the rather more experimental ‘Candle Power II’. Maybe that’s where that colour comes from, then.
-- Caspar Jacobs, March 29, 2017