Spirit of the City

Album Review: Memphis – Here Comes a City



Memphis is a duo composed of Torquil Campbell from Stars and long-time friend Chris Dumont, and the pair have been making music together since the 1990’s.

I am quite familiar with Stars, at least well enough to know that Campbell is a consummate live performer, so I am always delighted to hear what Stars members are up to (Amy Milan, Broken Social Scene, Memphis etc).

‘Here Comes a City’ exploits the talents of these two musicians in a wonderful, laidback way. It almost reminds me of some less-dancey Café Del Mar stuff if it were to come from more of a rocky, live-music background.For example track ‘Reservoir’ is completely instrumental and is overlaid with some pretty orchestration, slide guitar and samples of distant voices and people laughing. Moments like this on ‘Here Comes a City’ really embody a sense of being somewhere beautiful, somewhere warm and (interestingly) somewhere far away from the city.

On ‘Five Loops’ (which I assume is composed of, well…five loops) there are some delicate piano motifs that sit in front of unearthly and airy reverb – it reminds me of being at the funfair or sitting on the beach in the early evening; it reminds me of feeling relaxed and at ease.

Also, I’ve always liked Campbell’s voice because it has a gentle and subtle quality about it that lends itself to the lovely romantic lyrics he writes (“Just fall into the deep/just fall into the ocean”). Particularly on songs like ‘I am the Photographer’ the repetition of the lyrics and Campbell’s temperate voice lend a dreamy quality to the record overall.

There are nice folky moments here too, with some ethereal slide guitar, most notably on the title (and opening) track which is another instrumental. Also there are some well-arranged orchestration and catchy brass section motifs dotted around the record.

Despite all of the light and relaxing qualities of the album there are some upbeat and punchy indie rock songs to boot. My particular favourite is, ‘I Want the Lights on After Dark’ which packs an awesomely bouncy bassline and a buoyant chorus with a female voice harmonizing over the top of Campbell’s breathy delivery (Amy Milan maybe?).

I don’t feel any weighted sense of emotional investment in the songs as a whole though, and sometimes it feels as though the album is at risk of fading into the background for the less discerning listener.

However, for me the album perfectly exemplifies luminescent, frothy summer evenings in a distinctly laidback and dreamy style. The songs are well-written, well performed and allow the listener to dissolve into the overall feeling the record gives you: unwinding, taking it easy and feeling carefree. All the feelings that living in a real-life city is likely to deprive you of.

Memphis @MySpace  .  Memphis @Arts&Crafts  .

Words: PM

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s