Five years removed from their last studio album, Gainesville pezcore kings Less than Jake show no signs of aging. 20 years and some 8 albums in, it is quite the contrary as See the Light is the most energetic and urgent album the band have released since their Losing Streak days. After spending some subdued years trying new sounds (most notably with In With The Out Crowd), the band have continued what they rekindled in 2008’s GNV FLA; third wave ska’s finest amalgamation with punk.
From the get go, tracks like “Good Enough” and the terrific “Jump” continue a legacy they first cemented with songs like “My Very Own Flag” and “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts”. The energy through See the Light is one of the most impressive aspects of the record; “Sunstroke” sets the melodic punk bar high, while songs like “Bless the Cracks” give Hello Rockview songs a run for their money.
The band ventured into more pop oriented territory with In With the Out Crowd, and while results were decidedly mixed, songs like “American Idle” prove that the band can still be accessible without losing their trademark vitality. LTJ’s horn section is as prevalent as ever, something that became sorely lacking during their second run through the majors.
Less than Jake are bastions of a generation now more than a decade removed. When the youth landscape was filled with third rate, third wave ska bands, there was always the select few that carried their craft with distinction. It was the Mustard Plugs, the Buck-O-Nines, the Mu330s and of course, the Less than Jakes that always gave ska/punk an underlying credibility as it progressed into the mainstream of the late 90s. Truth is, it never went away, it just lost all the excess baggage. See the Light is the nostalgia, the present, and the tomorrow of a generation still holding its own.
(Fat Wreck Chords)
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.