In my review for Less than Jake’s See The Light, I made mention of several bands who always held the third wave ska flag high with their craft. For some reason, I forgot to mention Five Iron Frenzy, who after a ten-year hiatus are back with a kindling of new songs, tied together with a deft ribbon titled Engine of a Million Plots. In hindsight, this oversight is made ever more glaring upon repeated listens of the new album, a wonderfully nostalgic but incredibly refreshing repaving of an old road.
That old road, third wave, has seen a remarkable rekindling over the last few weeks, most notably from their “old guard” of established acts still breathing the fire they did when they first burst on to their respective musical landscapes. Five Iron Frenzy, perhaps slightly less on the forefront than say Less than Jake or the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were during their height of popularity, had been one of the more consistent acts. Their albums were always good, in many ways. My most compelling recollection was their album Our Newest Album Ever!, a sprightly, homely at times, wind in your hair ska/punk album that dug deep into the core of what it was growing up during these times.
Now a decade removed from their last output, Five Iron Frenzy continue their remarkable track record with songs still entrenched in their love of ska, rock and punk, while being in tune with the contemporary world around them. The album’s musical output is as strong as ever; with tracks like the up-tempo “We Own The Skies” and “Against a Sea of Troubles” showcasing their impeccable blending of ska and punk while “So Far” (candidate for best song they’ve ever written?) is your uplifting anthem driving home the band’s trademark tone and message.
There’s an energy and vibrancy to this album that you’d think would dissipate after all these years, but it seems the ten-year gap has not only re-energized the band, but has armed them with a bounty of material. There is a greater injection of alternative rock than we’ve seen in the past, but the amalgamation of the band’s past with its present and future comes together in an incredibly rewarding manner.
As songs like “I’ve Seen The Sun” and “Blizzards & Bygones” close out proceedings, you are left with a certain blessing of musical enlightenment and artistic satisfaction. There is depth in the album but there is also a great feeling of warmth through it all. With the Engine of a Million Plots, we’re taken on the ups and downs of life and music with poise and grace. An enriching and rewarding listen.
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.