Hide and Seek is the debut album from Mammoth Penguins, the new band fronted by Emma Kupa, formerly of BBC 6 Music favourites Standard Fare. Due out on 10 July via Fortuna POP!, the album is an exhilarating collection of indie anthems, with Emma's candid songwriting and heartfelt vocals at the fore. Chugging away like a great lost Weezer record, the songs are bold, loud and outrageously catchy, with lyrics that hit just the right chord, exploring the burgeoning responsibilities of being in your late 20s/early 30s.
When the much-loved Standard Fare called it a day after nine years and two albums, Emma Kupa upped sticks and moved from Sheffield to Cambridge, where she recruited Mark Boxall (bass) and Tom Barden (drums). Previously the bassist and lead singer in Standard Fare, Emma relished the switch to guitar in Mammoth Penguins, allowing her the space to deliver her trademark soaring vocals and to indulge in the occasional mean guitar solo. With Tom’s driving energy and Mark’s bouncy pop bass they quickly developed their riff-tastic powerpop sound. A songwriting force of nature, Emma soon had enough songs for "Hide and Seek", with enough to spare for her recently released solo mini-album Home Cinema - six songs of spirited indie-folk about family, death, drink problems, holocaust survivors and communism.
Recorded at Sickroom Studios in Norfolk by producer Owen Turner (Magoo, Factory Floor), Hide and Seek captures the band at the age they're at right now, reflecting on different aspects of being in their late twenties. Some songs explore the more serious side of life and relationships, such as "Make a Difference", about trying to convince someone to do the right thing with you, and "Postcards", a mellow number about trying to cheer up your lover. On the other hand, the jaunty "March of the Penguins" deals with having to act like an adult when you still feel young.
Elsewhere the rip-roaring "Propped Up", with call-and-response backing vocals, talks about how we're all dependent on others to distract us from negative thoughts, and the infectiously poppy "The Hermit" tells the story of trying to get in touch with a friend who has withdrawn from society. Other highlights include the Allo Darlin'-esque "Cries At The Movies" with its Motown beat, about viewing tears as weakness, and the slacker-pop of "Played", with its big, sing-a-long chorus.
Encapsulating the album's dilemma is the final track, "When I Was Your Age", a gloriously messy and loud song about feeling inadequate about one’s achievements. As Emma explains, "It started off with a birthday card from my granddad saying that he was married with kids at 28 and then I started thinking about what my parents, grandparents and family members had achieved by the time they were my age".
With Hide and Seek, Mammoth Penguins have produced a wonderfully varied record, each song a story, nuggets of joy, despair and hope. Already onto her second great band, feeling inadequate isn't something that Emma Kupa needs to do.