Leon Osborn’s metallic take on the lead single from Willow Beats’ Water EP is righteous to the point of holier than though. Come down off your mountain Osborn, WE KNOW YOU’RE GOOD. The broken drum loops snap and click largely oblivious to the vocal and wholly adrift from the original track. Th main counterpoint to the beat end is the dial tone synth that, hanging like a held button but at just the right tone to warm the metallic coolness of the rest of the track. Reap a Leon original below so you can know what you’ve been missing all this time. He’s been coming up through that Die High / Pilerats Perth scene for a minute and you’ve gotta think that with jams like these attention need be paid.
I’ve listened to this song a whole bunch of times this week because of the harmonies, because of the voice but also because I think it’s one of the most interestingly produced folk tunes I’ve heard in a long time. If this is self-produced, tip of the hat to you Gordi, you’ve done well indeed. Weird satellite sounds after each chorus and various horn samples kick about in strange places. Backing vocals are trimmed and clipped cleverly. She’s trigger happy on the reverb but I’ve always been partial to a wet vocal and when she goes deep on the harmonies it’s full as to bursting. The lyrical imagery might be a bit vanilla but it’s almost not worth mentioning with everything else this song has going for it.
Everything about this project is slightly off. I’m going to open proceedings by pointing upward at the title of this post and artist, ‘Max Quinn’s Onamatopenis’. We’re off to a strange start. You’ve now hit play. Was that the sound of someone scratching a record? I think so. Here are some synths tones that I remember only from HelloGoodbye records gone by and a voice full of Ben Gibbardesque nuances. Words that end in exhaled breathes and that same tonally expressive way that made Death Cab records a little bit more meaningful than otherwise. I don’t think Max Quinn (I’m shortening the title from here onwards) goes out of his way to try to hide his Death Cab crush, he even references ‘What Sarah Said’ in that ‘Tiny prayers to father time’ bit, which I thought was BRAZEN MAX, JUST BRAZEN, but then I read the lyrics and he’s directly quoting the song. Please take the time to read those lyrics, it’s actually a very well constructed piece of verse. So when I say that everything about this song is a little off, I kind of mean that I really rather love it. I’m sick of the overpolished sheen of producer vocalists existing within stylistically safe sample packages. This is risk taking and it’s noisy and it’s odd and it doesn’t make much sense because it’s starts from a lyrical launchpad and then pads it out with sounds that follow a thematic course rather than sounds that sound current and sharp. Substance over style, you might even say. There’s a record to follow very shortly.
Before I’ve listened to a note (but also I’ve listened to a few of them already if I’m being honest, because Tim Shiel just spun the whole darn track on Something More) this song has me onside. Within the name is a cute little language gag, a split spelling of the word fifty that has that same disrespect for the English language that people say George Bernard Shaw did (though apparently it actually WASN’T his concept) when he argued that the word fish could be spelt ‘ghoti’ using existing english phonemic structures. And indeed why shouldn’t it be spelt phiphti? If one band has earned the right to spell anything, any way they damn well wanna, it’s I’lls.
There’s a little faint click track across the first minute fifty of the track, there to remind you that no matter how little the band care for spelling, less still will they show regard a comfortable time signature. I’m pretty sure this song is written in thirty one / five, a former favourite of celebrity woman Paris Hilton as well as the late Bonhoeffer, the first for it’s ability to satirise ‘the It Girl lifestyle’ and the second by virtue of its moral purity. So you’ll understand my excitement when I see the hallowed thirty one / five at play here. There are those seriously beautiful I’lls chords that spend periods all bunched into long padded warmth and other times tweaked into stacatto pips and pops. There’s shades of King Of Limbs but it also reminds me of what would happen if three of Melbourne’s best musicians decided to make five and a half minutes of craftily patient slow-release that didn’t assume itself as quick as KoL. It’s a real numbers game this Fifty-Phiphty so it’s with a certain respect that I award the hallowed Sound Doctrine ‘Five Dreams Out Of Five’ (if that doesn’t make it to the press kit then nothing will) and I offer a monetary reward to anyone who can graphically represent that rating.
The business of Sound Doctrine is the business of drip-feeding you songs or bands that have hopefully not been made popular by somebody else before we get around to them. We bag a couple of similes, talk about our process and spend the last quarter of the article in facile assessment of the music. (CATS OUT OF THE BAG)
Well we’re at it again folks because last week Bored Nothing released Some Songs and came back into your arms like the cashmere rug your nan knitted that your mum accidentally put in the washing machine (hand wash only on cashmere mum!) and it unravelled. Then what happened was that your mum fixed it again, and now you have it back. That period of unravelling is representative of the interim period between Bored Nothing records, you see.
On Bored nothings eponymous debut record in 2013 Fergus Miller was brash and confident, like a drunk man standing at the front of the RSL stage yelling, “I won the meat tray, I’m moving to Ipanema, ya dickheads!” except not really like that at all. More like a guy putting out a record full of solid pop songs that had gristle and urgency and lo-fi thrust. If you didn’t already though, imagine living in Ipanema as a special reading interlude. A few years later, Fergus still writes solid pop songs. Some Songs might sound like a flippant title, but like my dad always said, “that’s where the flippancy ends, boy”.
While the individual tunes on the first record presented an idea or ideas and took it in one or three or five directions, these ideas are now carefully explored over the course 2 minutes and 30 seconds, realised in a new way, taken to their closing. In parts Some Songs is downtempo, navel gazing, lonely and the space around the edges is full of your fears, right to the end. But in other parts he skips it into hook heavy guitar pop and everything is clean and beautiful again and you realise that life is not what you made it, but what you want to make it. Sure, sometimes he still loses his mind and control of the gain on his distortion pedal, but even when you’re lost in the waves of squall you feel the return of control, and the guitars chime again.
So what’s the take home? Some Songs is total pop, it’s total Australia, it’s team Australia, somebody needs to play this for Tony Abbott and then maybe we’ll see the changes this country so sorely needs. But first, play it for yourself.