The front cover of Holidays On Ice's debut release Playing Boyfriends and Girlfriends is somewhat misleading. Featuring two figures skiing across snow-covered mountains, it immediately conjures a sense of cold and desolation for the uninitiated listener. Thankfully, the winter ambience does not extend any further than the artwork - the truth is that Playing Boyfriends and Girlfriends is inherently a summer album, featuring some of the shiniest, melodic and most varied pop music around.


Since the disbanding of her previous outfit Frente, Angie Hart has collaborated with a range of musicians, both locally and abroad. Here, she has teamed up with Dean Manning (formerly of Leonardo's Bride), Tracey Ellis (from Knievel) and Naomi Radom (Coda) to produce an album that is playful without being too twee and lush without seeming overproduced.


The instant standout is Get Up and Fall Down. Hart's oh-so-sweet vocals mesh perfectly with the laidback melodies. Glockenspiel and strings abound in the second half, lending the song an endearing charm reminiscent of artists such as the Eels. First single Sailor Girl treads slightly more rocking territory as Manning takes over the vocal duties. The perfect summer driving song, it easily rivals the best moments of the Decemberists and is, in many ways, the most accessible track on the album.


Experimentation is the key to this release. Citing influences including The Postal Service, Holidays On Ice embrace the vast array of electronic devices at their disposal. Consequently, their sound oscillates between classic indie songwriting, synth-pop and even trip-hop. The eclectic array of musicians contributing to the album has lent it enormous diversity and this variety is possibly the strongest feature of Playing Boyfriends and Girlfriends. It is vastly experimental and yet retains a kind of straightforwardness that makes it enjoyable on a surface level as well as upon deeper reflection.


Spell Happiness combines vocoder and Speak & Spell technology to produce a simple piece revolving around the repetition of the title lyric. This track is evidence of what Holidays On Ice can create from a handful of words, some ‘ba ba ba's and clever instrumentation. The album never lacks substance, regardless of the sometimes repetitive nature of the songs. There is always something to keep the listener engaged. That said, its sheer variety sometimes lends a feeling of inconsistency, though this is far from negative. The members of Holidays On Ice are not afraid to step out of their individual comfort zones and, thus, are able to explore the full capacity of their collective creativity.


Playing Boyfriends and Girlfriends has already garnered significant critical acclaim – general consensus has labelled it one of the best Australian releases of the year and there is no doubt that it features some of the catchiest and most whimsical pop songs to be heard in this country today. Definitely an act to watch.

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