"I travel without a ticket / I want to get caught / I want to be exposed / I want to be punished for what I've done", sings Ola Innset to open 'Bruises’, the first track on Making Mark's A Thousand Half-Truths. Musically, it's a jaunty sunshiney ballad at the opposite end of the happy-ometer to its dark lyrics. "You showed me your bruises / but I never showed you mine", makes for quite a start. Imagine Bonnie 'Prince' Billy channeling The Beach Boys. The clean tremolo of the guitar just bounds along with the melody, making for a singalong song that you shouldn't really be singing along to.
Making Marks are another Scandinavian band who seem to have taken the indie-pop format and make it shimmer with a little darkness, though as the album progresses it misfires a little, the mood inconsistent - even if the melodies are on the money throughout. Like Soundtrack of our Lives, A Camp or The Concretes, this collection of songs is hugely melodic. There are also echoes of Magic Numbers and Slow Club (female vocalist Nina Bø bears a striking vocal resemblance to Rebecca Taylor).
Formed in Oslo in 2012, Making Marks stand out for the vocal interplay between guitarist Innset and Bø, who also plays keyboards. The pair share duties on each track, and the lush production wisely centres around letting them flourish - the harmonies on 'Barcodes' for example shine beautifully. There's real depth to the voices, mixed higher in the production than the rhythm and guitars.
It also has more than one gear and when the pace picks up on tracks like 'Forgive and Forget' and 'Lemon Sheets', it almost feels as if the album has moved in the wrong direction, that the more mournful melancholy pace was working too well to be replaced, but then the choruses kick in and swell into warm blankets of sound. ‘Falling In Love Again’ is a perfect example of this, with that upbeat sound and conflicting lyrics: “You say I shouldn't be cruel to animals and that made me feel ashamed / but that’s nothing new / I’m getting used to that too / but I forget how my lips could tremble”.
If there's a weakness it's a lack of consistency. On 'Like Spinning', a heart-wringing tale of the difficulties of growing up plays out with vocals sharp across both channels. A chorus of "We can work it out / we can be healthy / and happy / and free", is positive, but it feels saccharine compared with the themes that preceded it. The message is too simple, too cliched. That’s not to detract from the standard of musicianship though. On the same track, Bø’s clinking piano creates an atmosphere that creates shivers, but like elsewhere it’s Innset’s guitar that propels the sound - sharp and crisp throughout.
It's also great to see the band from this part of the world opt to record in their own tongue, as Making Marks have done on 'Uten en Tred’, and it would have been nice to have had a couple more tracks in Norwegian. There are in-jokes peppered through too - phrases like ‘guided by voices’ and ‘my maudlin career’ just seem too well-placed to be accidental.
Ultimately the upbeat pop mixing with folk-tinged melodies is successful and 2014 should hopefully see the band reach a wide audience. It's the sort of album that leaves you feeling a little better about the world than you did before you pressed play.