Upon hearing the second track from Paul Brills’ recent record Harpooner, the lovely little pop masterpiece “Paris Is On”, you could easily be fooled into thinking that it was going to be a top-notch record. I mean, if a guy can make a song as catchy and enjoyable as “Paris Is On;” there’s no way that he could completely screw the pooch on the rest of the disc so bad as to almost completely negate the goodness of that one track, can he?
Sadly, yes. Yes he can. And even worse my friends: yes. Yes he does.
Harpooner is a stumbling trek through what happens when someone with marginal talent, and out of this world ambition, can be given free reign to make an atmospheric indie pop record. The result is rarely inspired (as with the iTunes grab-it must have jaunt “Paris Is On”), and almost completely crap (as is the case with the remainder of this disc).
Imagine if Elliot Smith (albeit an alive version, of course) were to take the dreamy pop ideas of his final Basement on a Hill material, and change the lyrics to uninspired word masturbation worthy of a fifteen year-olds MySpace page, and then mix it in a terribly unpleasant manner, and bam: you’ve got Harpooner. It’s going for thought provoking, but instead lands firmly on the plateau of annoyance.
The six minute closer “And So To Sleep” will surely do just that; of course, that’s assuming that you can grate through Brill’s wretched vocals and often too-far-from-his-range delivery.
As I said earlier; the only good thing about this disc is “Paris Is On,” Do yourself a favor: grab it as a single on iTunes, and save yourself the migraine that is this record.
(Scarlet Shame / Young American 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.