While the partnerships that were Donny & Marie and The Captain & Tennille proved that the duo could be a disastrous concept, Dean & Britta traces back to more soulful pairings like Otis Redding & Carla Thomas or Serge Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot. The pairing itself may seem odd, two veteran indie rock pugilists battling it out against many of today’s pairings of hipsters and popsters. We can take notice to the fact that most collaborations witnessed in this day and age are the result of some bastardization of previous work or the consequence of celebrity ‘A’ needing a career boost from hot celebrity ‘B.’
Neither Wareham nor Phillips are “celebrities” per say (although Phillips once shared screen time with Julia Roberts; albeit in 1988), they are however, two individuals who continue to align themselves with projects of panache and certain refinement. Wareham is a veteran musician, spending much of the late 80’s in the independently acclaimed Galaxie 500 before departing the group in 1991. It was during his time in pop rock outfit Luna that the connection to Phillips was made. She had been involved with Ultrababyfat and earlier shared time with indie group The Belltower. While Luna struggled to find a home in the major market, they found success on smaller fronts – in 2002, Jetset released the praised Romantica. However, the resulting success of the pair is perhaps best measured in their work away from the group; namely L’Avventura.
He is a voice booming with distinction, while Phillips, like a graceful songbird shimmies with gentle class and splendor. The mishmash of contrasting vocal tones shines brilliantly, both complimenting each other in an array of sparse echo, sullen detachment and the beauty of a night’s whisper. The original compositions range from breezy and bouncy (the light disco tinge of “Ginger Snaps”) to the delicately serene (“Night Nurse”), while their interpretations of others bode, on most occasions, fairly well. The Buffy Sainte-Marie song “Moonshot” is a wonder of a tune and Madonna’s “I Deserve It” comes across as lonesome; pained by the forlornness of Wareham’s expression. Only a cover of the Doors’ “Indian Summer” comes off as slightly difficult. In “Out Walking” (one of two compositions penned by Phillips), the air of smoky room confession is fitting of its rather chic makeup. Brooding like a red dressed lounge singer at her tearful best, it is as poignant as the album is sophisticated.
With the exorbitant amount of duos peddling kitschy trends and fashion, the deduction is that maybe the Donnys and Maries of yesteryear would do alright today. The reason for their failure was the absence of certain quality that tends to surround projects tried for marketing ploys, cheesy television shows and the quick rise to (transient) fame and fortune. Dean & Britta are everything unlike as L’Avventura boasts breathtaking work from two individuals; resulting in a union both gracious and cultured – a classy pair of aces.
(Jet Set Records)
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.