Saintface
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Saintface

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"The Pill (Boston)"

Have you ever noticed how the word "timeless" is applied to so many products nowadays? Descriptions of even the most mundane items, like saltine crackers and bottled water, have become timeless. "Timeless" is a marketer's dream. They throw it at us all the time because they think it's going to elicit an emotional response from us. The media loves to bombard us with "timeless" because they think that slapping that label on the hottest movie, book, or band is going to make us want to spend our money on these so-called sensations. There gets to be a point where we are so inundated with timeless, that quite the opposite response occurs: we get bored and apathetic.

There is a bright side to this, however. In a sense, the media provides us a service by causing us to be so jaded. This is especially true when it comes to the latest up-and-coming bands. In a veritable sea of carbon copy sounds and American Idol dreams, we've truly garnered the ability to wake up and smell transcendent timelessness when the alarm goes off in our faces. It's painfully obvious that the snooze button is an unfathomable option when it comes to New York's Saintface.

Together since 2001, this five-piece creates a truly timeless sound and performance. It's an easy thing to do when you intrinsically have the essence of timeless sophistication coursing through your veins. As dedicated followers of 80's and 90's new wave and Britpop, Saintface are pop addicts who feel as though melody is the key factor in making music. Frontman Peter Riley, guitarist David Blake, bassist Joe Babic, keyboardist Michael Parkin, and drummer Andy Elder were sent to us by divine intervention to blow our little romanticist minds away.

Based on the strength of their three-track EP, "Hudson & Day," Saintface have managed to garner a dedicated following in both New York and Boston. The title track has been hanging off the lips of locals since the band's British Accents Anniversary show last year, when they managed to trump other Smiths-ian sensations, including a mutated Good North/Information cover band playing on home turf. Endless shows in their home city have brought a focus to a new sound that playfully borrows from the tried and true and won't be easily slapped on the front page or in neon lights but nestles firmly in the bedrooms of the lost romantics near and far.

But to fully appreciate the delivery of Saintface, you can easily think back to your first listen of the Smiths, the feeling of your own personal parting of the sea unfolding before your ears. That's the impact "Hudson & Day" could have. Fast forward some 17 years (give or take, depending on where you came from) and that kind of excitement is brewing again.

Everything from Riley's hope-drenched vocal delivery to the perfect guitar parts is a veritable romanticist's wet dream. "Eight Days A Week" and "New York's Favorite Plaything" also have anthemic potential. Quite frankly, everything about these songs is perfect.

Saintface's live performance is also something that leaves an indelible mark. Although it helps that they're as good-looking as good-looking can get, it's evident that Riley possesses a timeless confidence that is so rare in people, eliciting the ghost of a Martin Rossiter gone by. He slithers and writhes all over the stage like a dog in an emotional heat, and it's-- well, absolutely mesmerizing.

Sometimes when one is stuck in their own little performance world, the audience can be non-existent. Not for Riley, though. When he's up there, he imparts his confidence on the audience and tries to get them involved. His come hither stares draw people in and he soon has them by the palm of his hand.

One temporary drawback to the rising Saintface tide is the dearth of releases to date. With "Hudson & Day" out on the streets for almost two years now, it's easy to burn through this beautiful teaser. The EP is seemingly only a taste of things to come, as Saintface just finished recording and mastering their 11-track album titled "Apartment Stories," and they are in the process of seeking to release it. Early demos of "A Few Kind Women" and "Never Leave My Mind" continue to bring comparisons to Morrissey's best solo work.

But in the meantime, we cling desperately and longingly to the timelessness of "Hudson & Day" as we deal with the shock and reality that there is finally something better out there for us.
- Leaura Levine


"Whisperin and Hollerin (UK)"

Apartment Stories--9 out of 10 stars

Back in the mists of our early days circa ooh, late 2002/early 2003, the fledgling W&H received an EP from a promising NYC quintet called SAINTFACE. Unlike the then de-rigeur crop of Strokes-alikes oozing from the great city, they wrote songs full of wine, women and loss with an Anglophile bent and a widescreen sweep that was the antithesis of the angularity doing its omnipresent rounds. Whoa, we thought: here’s one to watch in the next 12 months or so.

And then…nothing. Apparently. Because the next thing we know almost three long years have gone by and there’s been no sign of Saintface until now, when they’ve re-appeared – apparently out of nowhere – with a debut album called “Apartment Stories” fuelled by even more of the wine, women and loss of the EP, not to mention side orders of temptation, lust and frustration and a heightened sense of the immediate, dramatic (Brit)pop they were threatening to specialise in.

So let’s get on the case at last. Saintface are based in New York and they are Peter Riley (vocals), David Blake (guitars), Joseph Babic (bass), Andy Elder (drums) and keyboard player Michael Parkin. Their album “Apartment Stories” may have taken an almost Stone Roses-style aeon to arrive in our lap, but by God, now it has it should be petted and treated with the utmost love and respect.

Just to remind us why we swooned over them to begin with, the songs from the “Hudson & Day” EP are again featured here. The title track is still the very epitome of dashing and debonair with a great, swelling chorus and a cooler than cool vocal from Riley. “Eight Days A Week”, meanwhile ISN’T anything to do with The Beatles, but it’s a majestic cruise of a song full of romantic longing, while the other song I was previously aware of (“New York’s Favourite Plaything”) showcases a harsher brooding side to Saintface: all fuzzed-up basslines and a dense atmosphere akin to The Smiths’ “Shoplifters Of The World Unite.”

But the great news is that there’s much more where these come from. The classic Britpop crunch of “A Few Kind Women” introduces Riley and co as the classiest young rakes about town, drowning their sorrows downtown while they chat up the best-looking waitresses around. Riley clearly has potential as a great crooner and while the likes of Neil Hannon, Jarvis Cocker and even El Moz do inevitably spring to mind, he has charisma to spare in his own right and the way he can build up a plot in a few simple, but well-turned phrases soon hooks you in. He does it to great effect on the ensuing “That Word Is Love” – a ridiculously immediate Smiths-cum-Motown affair – when he opens with “you’re moving to my town/ and all the birds start to sing again/ the leaves leap off the ground/ and all the bells start to ring again.” It doesn’t sound that remarkable on paper, but when allied with his persuasive croon and the band’s imploring rush it’s nigh on the perfect scene-setter.

He does it again to great effect on the exultant “Hand On My Heart” (opening couplet: “So much for that lazy summer/ that rented room where we’d read each other”) where his poor-boy-falls-for-rich-girl longing is swept along beautifully by the band’s intuitive playing and dominates the tempting, but somehow cautionary “There Is A Room” where it’s clear that playing the field leaves its emotional scratches as well as its notches on the bedpost.

Elsewhere, the band continue to prove their mettle with the Noel Gallagher-style guitar aggression of “Never Leave My Mind” and whip up a storm on the Pulp-style stomper that is “It Can’t Mean Much”, where Riley gives apparently short shrift to a love-sick buddy (“you’re still young and you could sell off your shares or something”). Arguably even better, though, are the suave and cinematic likes of “More Than I Love Love” and the show-stopping “You Belong To Me”: the inevitable, grand-piano drenched finale which features Riley’s finest vocal performance and a brace of last-gasp lyricism (“when the wolves are at your door/ and the fools are on TV/ the one thing you can know is you belong to me”) which ensures ‘epic weepie’ is stamped through the song like the best Blackpool rock.

“Apartment Stories”, then, is a debut with a twinkle in its eye, some surreptitious stains on its sheets and lasting scars on its heart. It might superficially suggest a hot and steamy affair, but it goes deeper the more you dally, and when Riley sings “we could meet each other somewhere more interesting than halfway” (“Hudson & Day”) you simply know Saintface are going to demand no less than total commitment in the future. Hook up and get dating without delay. - Tim Peacock


"Village Voice"

When and if that New Romantics retro phase goes down, Saintface is poised front and center. Marrying vocals à la Morrissey or ABC with Suede/Oasis guitar heft, their live shows are a power pack, though fainting flower indie kids should mind themselves close to the stage. The fourth wall comes down pretty fast in singer Peter Riley’s path.
- Dufresne


"Popmatters"

Live review

The first time I saw Saintface was several months ago, in August at the Mercury Lounge. I had heard they were Brit poppy, so I went to check them out. From the moment that lead singer Peter Riley, a tall well-put together guy with slicked back hair, started singing, I couldn't believe how much he reminded me of Morrissey. His stage swagger and his vocals were reminiscent of Moz, and frankly, it shocked me. But by the third song, I was converted. The songs were infectious and made me nostalgic for The Smiths. I found myself smiling throughout their set. Later I found, it wasn't just me. Most of my friends who were mega Moz fans also fell in love with Saintface. The epidemic was growing.

So when I went to the Saintface show at the end of October, I felt the same rush as the first time I saw them -- except this time I knew the words to the songs from their EP, Hudson & Day, and could sing along, joyfully. Their music is unabashedly poppy and sounds so goddamn polished, both live and recorded.

While Riley is jauntily roaming around stage, his vocals are amazingly flawless, which is sort of thrilling and almost hard-to-believe. In one of my favorite Saintface songs, "Hudson & Day", Riley airily coos about the ups and downs of searching for the perfect romance:

We could meet one another / Somewhere more interesting than halfway / We could be for each other / Rock Hudson and Doris Day.

Each note is calculated carefully and delivered effortlessly into perfect symmetry with the rest of the band who all work off each other's vigor.

Oftentimes, Riley will fall onto his knees or collapse onto his back, seemingly exhausted from the vocal exertions. But never does he stop singing or stop trying to engage the audience. He'll lean forward on the sound monitors, motioning people to come forward, come closer. His confidence is unwavering and magnetic. And sometimes he can be a little saucy with his stage banter. It all comes together in the end, though, and their live shows are all the better for it.

Through lively and dramatic bursts, Michael Parkin jumps up and down all over his keyboards, rocking them back and forth with force. Andy Elder drums hard, propelling the songs forward into fast, booming paces. Both guitarist David Blake and bassist Joe Babic are the two more understated members, tending not to dabble in stage theatrics as much as the rest of the group. But that kind of balanced performance works for Saintface, and their exuberance is catching. - Jin Moon


"Melodynelson.com"

If New York City has been bringing us bands with influences from all over the musical spectrum, you have to admit that there was one major influence missing... but not anymore, because thanks to Saintface, all of you Smiths fans will be happy to hear the revival. I'm sure it gets annoying for an up-and-coming band to constantly hear "you sound like so and so", but c'mon, we're talking about The Smiths here, one of the most adored bands of our times...so coming from a huge fan, this is a compliment.

Once you look past the similarities, you'll realize that Saintface plays great pop-rock tunes that will stick to your head like all good songs should. Best of all though is the stage presence, with five lively members and a frontman as charming as can be. Saintface proves to live up to what a solid live performance should be in the first place: entertaining.
- Melody Nelson


"Weekly Dig (Boston)"

Hudson & Day EP review

Tea with Morrissey, long conversations with Billy Bragg and late night drinking binges with The London Suede. New York City’s Saintface must have experienced all of this, because they’ve combined the best elements of all three on this EP with style and grace. Listening to this EP, I imagine myself walking through the city while the nightlife is hot, and I’m feeling it, and then I’m in London on a dreary day sitting in the pub, wondering what happened to the love of my life.

After about 5,000 listens I began to think that Saintface is using subliminal messages in their CD telling me to sing, because I keep belting out the songs, and I can tell people are slightly aggravated hearing my horrible voice. The hooks are so catchy that they run laps in my mind for hours, and I don’t want them to ever get tired.

I have always been a sucker for a beautiful, intelligent, well-written rock song, and Saintface has just raised the bar in American Brit Pop. I have heard a bunch of people saying that the NYC music scene is overrated, but if New York keeps putting out bands like Saintface, then all you haters are just full of small talk. - Mick Taggert


"Hardglitter.com"

Live review

It was 1985 and we were in some crowded bar in London, and we patiently waited for the band to pick up their instruments and fill the air with a soaring wall of sound that would only make people drink, dance and feel wonderful. Or at least, that's what it felt like Saturday evening.

It's my undying faith in britpop that makes it a most pleasurable experience to listen to a band like Saintface. With an elegantly fashioned pop sound that will never will go out of style, Saintface should prove to be a lasting force in the NYC music circuit. As the members of Saintface ready their equipment on the Mercury Lounge stage, Blur's "Parklife" streams through the speakers, and it's just oh so appropriate. Perhaps preparing the audience for the wave of anglophilia...and it never looked so good.

Saintface provide the perfect marriage of britpop sensibilities and sugary synth-pop and bring forth gorgeous melodies. The new wave sound they so aptly adopt is presented in its truest and most genuine form. Saintface's tunes remind us of a great era of music that people have been head over heels with for years.

Peter Riley, frontman extraordinaire, woos the crowd with a healthy dose of Morrissey & the rhythm and finesse of Jarvis Cocker. Peter's onstage eccentricities set the background for his soothing, seductive vocals. He's entertaining as he is charming, belting out the high notes and showing off his lush, polished tunes. The man's on a quest for the great pop song...the type of song you'll be humming to yourself when you wake up in the morning. His keen ear for great hooks is fondly portrayed in their Hudson and Day EP. The title track is an uplifting tune with moments of sweeping synth and a compelling charisma.

Michael Parkin stands off to the side, silently working away on the keys, injecting each song with a glorious synthesized touch. Dave Blake churns away on the guitar and Joe Babic on the bass (who've you no doubt seen before several times, even if you don't know him), and on drums, Andy Elder happily smiles with a darling visage and loves to hear that crazy beat. No pun.

I absolutely adore Saintface, mainly because they're making music much like the kind I've grown up on and have always loved listening to but has since gotten lost in the booming lo-fi scene. A great pop song is timeless, and will be great decades after it's been written. That's what they strive for regardless of trends, crazes, and rages. If their EP is any indication of what's to come, then I wait in anticipation. This sharp-dressed, classy five piece definitely have it.
- Ria Ammar


"Splendid E-zine"

Hudson & Day EP review

This is a three-song fist of glutinous Anglophilia from a New York City band whose apparent disfranchisement with the aching hipness of their musical surroundings manifests itself within tautly knit Brit-Pop mantras, peppered with decidedly louche drawls that recall every mild-mannered English crooner from Bryan Ferry to Jarvis Cocker to Ian McCulloch. It's decidedly ambitious fare, soaringly melodic...the chorus of "New York's Favorite Plaything", for example, could feasibly serenade a sunset sing-along at Glastonbury, "Eight Days A Week" could comfortably induce random outbursts of sweaty hugging in the pubs of Camden, and the title track actually sounds like a lovelorn young Morrissey quoffing steak and kidney pie during a miners' strike.

If only Interpol were to invite them on tour...
- Allan Harrison


"Whisperin and Hollerin (UK)"

Hudson & Day--8 out 10 stars

Despite hailing from New York City, Saintface are a smart quintet, whose sound will quickly wrong foot those of you who are expecting us to be praising yet another angular outfit whose main aim in life is to cop The Strokes moves (which they’ve already siphoned from Television and Guided By Voices anyway) and win a Luella Bartley clothes sponsorship in the process.

Indeed, the briefest snatch of the title track "Hudson & Day" will tell you that Saintface have far loftier ideas, and rightly so, because this kind of beautifully-tailored, string-driven (warranted in its’ usage) pop never goes out of fashion in the most discerning household.

Actually, the comparisons that spring to this reviewer’s mind are chiefly English, such is the strength of Saintface’s cool, Anglophile itinery. The title track is luscious and exciting, recalling the likes of both Pulp at their finest and also great ‘80s troupes like The Colourfield (musically), with the added attraction of Peter Riley’s louche and deeply seductive voice.

Amazingly, "Hudson & Day" – the best song about two converging streets since The Afghan Whigs’ fabulous "Fountain & Fairfax" – was recorded in Riley’s kitchen(!), but the standard of musicianship is impressive throughout, with second tune "Eight Days A Week" (no, not THAT one) again weighing in with memorable hooks and the closing "New York’s Favorite Plaything" initially throwing a curve with its’ fuzzed up, Black Rebel bassline launching proceedings into a much darker part of town.

Blessed with reserves of style and verve – not to mention several potential sonic secret weapons, especially in the shape of keyboardist Michael Parkin – Saintface are already pencilling in their own agenda regardless of the present scene’s vagaries, whilst looking and sounding like championship material. Those of you who demand more from your favorite bands (and you should) ought to be looking in this direction already. - Tim Peacock


Discography

Apartment Stories LP
Hudson & Day EP
Saintface EP

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Whisper it: the great New York City rock & roll goldrush has come and gone. Every last scenester has squeezed into his too-tight leather jacket, cocked his designer bedhead just so and had a stab at the glam racket, greedily snapping at the heels of the handful of acts whose own photocopied sounds and moves somehow added up to a breathless media scene. Every eighth note has been pummelled, every tinny narcissist tune drawled–douse the lights on the Bowery, lock up the Lower East Side. And don’t even think about cabbing it out to Brooklyn.

But if you peered past the style press of course there was more: a handful who swam knowingly against the tide of fashion and fickle ears, outsiders who traded in music as timeless as the city itself and who refused to be brushed aside; purveyors of the classic song married to a whiplash crunch, all the while sketching the one-room dramas playing out above, below, and across from your own–telling apartment stories. Imagine Cole Porter with a Marshall stack: and you’d arrive at Saintface.

In 2003 songwriter, singer and arch romantic Peter Riley realized his one-man bedroom demos required a five-man real-world band and summoned his wayward childhood compatriot Michael Parkin back from London. With Parkin duly installed on keyboards the two in short order snapped up Queens-bred dandy and occasional bassist Joseph Babic; proofreader and former heavy metal drummer Andy Elder; and after numerous false starts (including a guitarist who pathologically refused to acknowledge the rest of them in rehearsals), the crashing fretboard theatrics of David Blake.

Self-produced in Riley’s kitchen in 2003, Saintface’s Hudson & Day EP won the band a fervent New York following and acclaim in town and abroad (with one reviewer likening the disc to a “sunset singalong at Glastonbury”), yet marked them out as a different breed altogether from the artless garage squall of the moment. The band honed its songs, sound, and show (which saw them treading the boards with acts like The Bravery, The National, and My Favorite while prompting the Village Voice to write, “Fainting flower indie kids should mind themselves close to the stage–the fourth wall comes down pretty fast in Riley’s path”) before finally grabbing the bull fully by the horns and launching into the self-produced sessions for their debut LP.

The fruit of that labor is APARTMENT STORIES, eleven songs crackling with the wit and romance of city life, a record with a huge heart and a tongue planted firmly in its cheek; the kind they made when great songs were for putting a skip in your step or letting you know you weren’t the last in line to be loved. Recorded on stolen time and an overtaxed iBook in freezing Times Square rehearsal rooms, mixed within an inch of its life by Godfrey Diamond (who’s done time with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Lou Reed), APARTMENT STORIES is a blast of exuberance cut with a heady dose of melancholy, a record defiantly unafraid of wearing its emotions on its admittedly well-tailored sleeve.

It’s there in the boozy pounce of A Few Kind Women, the jubilant backbeat of That Word Is Love, and the lyrical come-on that is There Is a Room; the would-be Hollywood romance of Hudson & Day, the transatlantic swoon of Hand On My Heart, and the wearily raised glass of You Belong To Me (recorded on the family upright after Parkin’s ten rounds with the staircase).

It’s guts, humor, sex, melody, pop–they all fit Saintface to a tee. These, then, are their APARTMENT STORIES.