St Christopher Medal – Sunny Day Machine (Stereogram Recordings)
Various Artists – The Sound of Stereogram (Stereogram Recordings)

I’ve been meaning to write about the St Christopher Medal album for weeks now (it’s been out since the end of October) but for one reason and another I’ve never managed. Til now. Normally I’d probably have just dropped it in favour of something more current but, really, it’s just too good to ignore.

I confess that, up front, I knew nothing about St Christopher Medal other than that they were on Stereogram. Despite that ignorance ‘Sunny Day Machine’ has turned out to be one of the year’s nicest surprises which frankly shouldn’t be that much of a shocker since, in this household at least, Stereogram is quickly becoming a by-word for quality.

The record is a mixture of up tempo pop songs in the vein, perhaps of Teenage Fanclub, as demonstrated by the singles ‘Vatrersay Love Song’ and ‘From A Zafira Comfort’. Yet there’s a quirkiness to the likes of ‘Satchel Bag’ (perhaps the record’s stand-out) which elevates these tunes to something special.

Then there’s the noisiest track on the record ‘Days Like These’ the guitars on which  reminds me a little of New Adventures era R.E.M. Which is all good.

But a fair chunk of the record is far more introspective and these songs are just as strong as the pop tunes. Later period R.E.M. are also a reference point for some of this material on the record yet the likes of ‘Great Lakes Morning’ (which also boats a magnificent guitar coda) and ‘What She Said on the Street’ offer a depth that Georgia’s finest sometimes lacked at that stage in their career.

Other highlights include the band’s theme tune, ‘We Are The Medal’, which is a wonderful ode to the joys of making music for the sake of it but which also includes the slightly baffling claims that ‘We are Coldplay/We Are The Three Degrees’!

‘Sunny Day Machine’ is in a lot of ways the opposite of Manic Pop Thrills. Instead it’s a wonderful, layered, mature record that bears repeated listening and is yet another gem in the increasingly impressive Stereogram catalogue. You won’t hear much about it but you definitely should make sure that you hear it.

Out more recently (last week in fact) was the Stereogram compilation ‘The Sound of Stereogram’ which does a great job of presenting the label’s acts in one terrific package.

The record is a mixture of completely new stuff, re-workings of some kind and the odd exclusive. So alongside a brilliant new Cathode Ray track, you’ll get a sublime (and startling) remix of James King and the Lonewolves ‘Step Away From Home’ as well as a first appearance on physical format for Lola In Slacks’ fantastic debut single ‘Tramlines’.

St Christopher Medal are represented here by ‘Great Lakes Morning’ and a “demo” of ‘Leave The Boy Upstairs’ which frankly deserves an equal billing with the album version. It may be sparser but it’s every bit as beautiful.

There’s also new (to me at least) tracks from Roy Moeller (a fuller sound than on the last couple of albums), and two excellent songs from both the Fabulous Artisans and Milton Star.

All of this comes for just a fiver. Yes, a fiver. So if you’re in anyway interested in Stereogram, you’d have to be daft not to try. A warning though – once you’re hooked that’s you – there’s no escape.