SINGLE REVIEW: Sundara Karma – Little Smart Houses
WORDS BY: CALLUM MITCHELL-SIMON
Sundara Karma started out from humble beginnings, formed in 2011 as a high school band in Reading. They releasing their debut singles via Soundcloud, before several years spent developing their sound, releasing the odd EP, and touring alongside the likes of Wolf Alice. They came on leaps and bounds upon the release of their 2017 debut album Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect, which featured huge singles She Said, Olympia and Happy Family. They’re set for bigger things in 2019, with a new album Ulfilas’ Alphabet due on March 1st on Chess Club/RCA, and a headline slot at Live At Leeds in May, preceded by a huge headline UK tour in April.
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With their spiky guitar riffs and heavily stylised art-rock leanings, they bring to mind a hungry young Franz Ferdinand or Foals. The Guardian even compared them to the likes of U2 and Arcade Fire. A daunting comparison maybe, but these guys seems to understand this crazy old rock and roll game – they dress up and play their respective parts with aplomb, lead singer Oscar “Lulu” Pollock in particular doing his utmost to channel a modern-day Bowie (this writer came close to seeing them live in 2017 at Y-Not Festival, but that turned out to be the fateful year that the whole thing was rained off).
Their return is heralded by new track Little Smart Houses. Whilst their debut was itself a very fine record, it, by and large, stuck to a set palate of influences, like a band finding their feet. This time around they appear much more confident to stretch out their sound. This is bolstered with some inspired 80’s touches, such as Pollock‘s heavily indebted Duran Duran-esque vocal inflections. A bouncy, guitar-led intro is abruptly halted by some stop-start vocals, before a wave of shimmering electronics bridge into a rousing chorus. Pollock sings of yearning for a broadening spiritual awareness “free yourself and you will conceive, a life beyond your wildest dreams”, and the habits we inflict on ourselves to prevent us from achieving this “We’ll stay inside because we’re torn and dumb, kept warm in little smart houses”.
It’s a bright, technicolor slab of indie-pop, with slick, polished production. It’s a confident artistic step forward, likely to keep the returning fans happy, whilst winning over many more new ones in the process.