Headshot of David Shah

Track by Track: The Melting Ice Caps guides us through his new album ‘Signals’

We’ve been following the fortunes of singer-songwriter David Shah since the earliest days of Joyzine, when he was to be found fronting excellent pop-noir exponents Luxembourg. Since that band split in 2008 (though they’ve reconvened a few times since) Shah has been recording as The Melting Ice Caps, and recently released Signals, his eighth album under this moniker.

Musically charming, with a gently minimalist lo-fi warmth, and lyrically deft as always, Signals is bound to delight those already familiar with his previous work, whilst also being an excellent starting point from which to discover it all.

We asked David to give us a guided tour of the record, track by track.

The Melting Ice Caps is just me, David Shah, and has been for a while now.  Signals is my eighth LP, or thereabouts.  The title?  The album was going to feature a track called ‘Signals’, but in the end I wasn’t happy with the recording of that song so I dropped it (it will probably surface on the next album) but still thought the name summed up the album enough to be retained.

This record consists of eleven mini-scenes, mostly around the two minute mark and some even shorter.  I’ve been working in this micro-song format for a few albums now, because I’m keenly aware that there’s a lot of music released every week and people only have a limited amount of listening time, but also because I enjoy jumping straight in to a story, telling it and then getting out before I bore the listener (I hope).

The songs here were birthed in my little home studio set-up using guitar, piano, voice and a bunch of orchestra samples.  The sounds and technology that are available for DIY musicians to work with now are amazing (to me) and I enjoy assembling the instrumentals, but the biggest pleasure is still the act of “taking a line for a walk”, in other words working out where the sung tune wants to wander off to and what words it can carry.  I also like the time spent putting down the vocal takes, and this is now the only time I get to sing for an audience (albeit at one remove) as I pretty much never gig.

Here’s my track-by-track commentary, the brevity of which reflects the brevity of the songs themselves.  The album is out now on all the streaming services, and I hope you like it. 


1. Crested Tern
A mariner, with just 24 hours left on land before setting sail again, wishes that day would never end.

2. Starting Line
Sports Day. Heat. Blue skies. Those white lines painted on the grass. You get a little jolt of happiness but don’t understand why. It’s the sense of your whole life in front of you, that’s all.

3. Golden Hill
Spoiler alert: this song borrows heavily from the novel Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. It is 1746 and Mr Smith lands in New York, apparently with a large amount of money.

4. Alive
It’s good to be.

5. Peggy in LA
I imagined Peggy Lee, towards the end of her life, longing to return to her childhood home of North Dakota. I have no idea whether she in fact had any such desire.

6. The Frame (2023)
I had it in mind that this song, which appeared on my 2018 album, Misadventures, needed to be re-recorded. Whether that was necessary, who knows… but this new version sounds pretty good to me, for now.

7. Goldfinch
In an interview, Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch, described the “doubling” within an artwork: it’s just some brushstrokes, but somehow it’s also a bird.

8. Predecessors
So much about our lives is dependent on those who lived before us. This should be obvious, but I gave it little thought when I was young. This theme also cropped up several times on my previous album, Voices Off.

9. Diana Ditch
A reckless Prime Minister once said he would “die in a ditch” rather than delay his (already objectively rotten) flagship policy. Numerous Diana Ditch memes and riffs ensued (Mark Gatiss being the originator). Here’s my go, which arrives several years too late to be topical.

10. Fair Play
Finding a way to accept past failure is one of the tasks of middle age. In the meantime, we trace the line backwards, trying to identify the exact moment we took that wrong turn. I’ve messed up this form… can I have another one please?

11. Ivy
An ivy tendril reaches out to grab a branch to wrap itself around. It can hardly be said to know why it does this; it just does.  A love song.

Signals is available now as a digital download via Bandcamp

Introduction by Paul Maps

Keep up to date with all new content on Joyzine via our
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Mailing List

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: