Graham Reid | | 1 min read
The self-titled debut album by this Auckland-based folk-pop band was among the Best of Elsewhere 2007 list -- and they have just been getting better. No surprise really given that alongside the core duo of John Guy Howell and Rachel Bailey are Sam Prebble (who, as Bond Street Bridge, appeared in the following year's Best of Elsewhere with his album The Mapmaker's Art) and Verlaines' bassist Mike Stoodley alongside drummer Myles Allpress.
You might say they are a supergroup of alt.folk-pop.
More seriously, this new album capitalises on the band's considerable pedigree, and a pleasingly maturity of lyrics, melody and intent. (Elsewhere has bemoaned in the past how many local acts are using fey whimsy as their default position.)
Listen to Calling Card here -- a romantic Sicilian/Italian influence in the music? -- where Bailey delivers a hard message to a former lover ("I'm not some second choice . . . when everything goes wrong") and you know this is music for adults.
And you can't help but smile when A,B and C kicks in with a musical reference to the Crystals before it gets down to the darker existential questions over a brooding, repeated guitar figure then opening out at the mid-point with confident assertion ("I feel the power/light/moment").
There are also songs of great emotional uplift here: the title track notes that after all the work, the failed dreams, and the lack of reward you deserve some winter sun, "start again beneath the wintersun, Hey, go lightly on yourself". The opener Tell That Boy is about love lost and the dream denied by a lack of community and compassion, but that "the sun will surely rise tomorrow".
The gorgeously ghostly The Hand That's Dealt is a distant lover admitting they are hard to love ("it's not easy to love someone who doesn't love themself") and after the Intermission II a cloud of death (as a reality in life) hovers over the lovely Time to Go and the stately Mi Corazon.
These are beautiful, tasteful and sensitively delivered songs with understated acoustic arrangements (and electric guitars where required) and lead to the closers Sylvia (about a birth) and the breathtakingly beautiful Simmering Moon which ends the album with the simple but powerful lines "carry us home, where there is love".
Quite a journey to that point -- and one it is a delight to have been taken on.