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Joshua – Baggage EP

Baggage features five tracks (two of which are acoustic) that lean far more towards the undemanding side of indie rock rather than the sagging, emotional drain of their earlier work

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Joshua are quite the emo anomaly; once the darlings of the genre, their presence went from the thoroughfares of Napster’s best days to the unfortunate mumblings of “what ever happened to?” and the occasional joyous find at local Mom and Pop record stores.

Capturing much of the attention in their early Doghouse days, they reached a pinnacle through, of all things, a self-titled single that still holds their two finest offerings; “Divide Us” and “Your World is Over.” It is quite strange to think that while many of their counterparts (who ply their trade in very much the same scope) have ascended to far greater heights, Joshua have never scaled higher than occasional scene reminiscence and the inquisitive wondering of lost potential. Nonetheless, while they floated very much under the radar (I thought, at this point, they had clearly disbanded), their music never waned from the early musings they exhibited with convincing ability.

And indeed, it seems it has come time for their last hurrah; the Baggage EP is in fact their bidding of farewell. This joint release between English label Engineer and Spanish collective Trece Grabiciones, while musically sound, is perhaps not the best representation of their seven-year career. Baggage features five tracks (two of which are acoustic) that lean far more towards the undemanding side of indie rock rather than the sagging, emotional drain of their earlier work. The EP opens strong enough; “A Better Place” exhibits fluffy guitar riffs coupled with an extremely endearing refrain that finds its roots entrenched in boyish 60’s melodies. It is by far the release’s most compelling offering: neatly written, well-produced, while demonstrating a knack for radio-friendly “oohs oohs” and sugar-soaked harmonies.

“Repetition Forever” can be best described as a struggle between being calculatedly E-M-O and the more airy rock threads “A Better Place” exhibited. For the most part, the tune isn’t bad by any stretch – never to flail aimlessly at any one recognizable trap said three-letter genre is known for; but never really sticking it in any forceful manner. The song, for lack of a better explanation, is just there – not quite rockin’ out, but not quite being a black hole of watery, weary songwriting. The real gem of the bunch is “Perfect Man,” a no-nonsense pop-rock number that could have easily found itself as musical accompaniment to any nostalgic, 1960s one-hit-wonderdom; sounding at times, ever so similar to “That Thing You Do.”

There is little to be said about the EP’s acoustic tracks. Neither exceeds the mark of teary-eyed guitar twiddling, and both hash through nothing novel or remotely interesting for that matter. It leaves Baggage very brief, and for a parting shot one would probably want a little more. Nonetheless, the EP shows their songwriting at its most progressed; evolving from the extremely raw, and potently scarring constructs of their earliest material, to the more sophisticated, refined approach found here. In a sense, it mimics their career: a few bright flashes, a disappearing act and before you know it, a goodbye.

(Engineer Records / Trece Grabaciones)

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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

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Hatchie Keepsake

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.

(Heavenly Recordings)

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