Whatever you think of Marthas & Arthurs, you've at least got to credit them with the cojones to turn the comfort blanket of sound right down. There are instruments here – piano, accordion, flute, tambourine, autoharp as well as guitar and bass – but they rarely intrude, let alone smother, as was more often than not the case with the Magic Numbers. The end result is a boy-girl unit who have been described as a pastoral Abba or Belle & Sebastian backing Mamas & Papas. We're going to be obscurer than thou and call them a bucolic Music Go Music.
That Swedish superpop connection is a bit wide of the mark, though – this music is never going to chart, it's made for campfire singalongs, more Green Man festival than Gimme Gimme Gimme. Even when the songs are bright and percussive, such as on Sally Started It All, or slathered in strings, as on Counting the Colours Til Friday, there is a quality to the female vocals that marks them out as a folk, not pop, outfit.
Marthas & Arthurs, two of whom used to be in an electro-noise band, are too rustic to be a kitsch novelty – they even made the sleeves for their EP out of willow and bird feathers. Not that they're po-faced beardos. Wry self-debunking is an in-house speciality, probably why they titled their straightest, best tune Clamour for a Fudge, despite it veering melodically pretty/prettily close to Scarborough Fair with shades on the chorus of the Everly Brothers' Devoted to You. And they do funny things such as Dinner Downloads, where they literally sing for their supper, playing in people's homes in exchange for food, an example of a contemporary micro-phenomenon whereby gigs come to you rather than vice versa. Plus, they're big in Brazil, or so they tell us. Not that being big in Brazil is in itself particularly humorous, but the idea that right now they're dancing to this in Rio's favelas will surely raise a chuckle when you hear them.