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Friday, 17 October 2014 |
“I will try not to give up, but I will succeed” – sings lead vocalist and gifted songwriter Husky Gawenda during “For To Make A Lead Weight Float” – all the while a miniature battery-operated flamenco dancer is stomping her heels in time to this story-telling gem (or she may as well be). The song builds like the plot of an A-grade film, but ends abruptly, as though a hearty catch-up with a mate has sadly come to an end. Most of Rucker’s Hill will leave you feeling this way, which is part of its lingering charm.
Melbourne indie folk band Husky follow up their 2012 debut album Forever So with the stunning Rucker’s Hill. This is an album that has what it takes to bring people together, cast light on fears, and make you feel a little less alone – at the very least, it will make you feel at home.
The title track with its obvious Simon & Garfunkel influence does a great job at introducing the band’s refined and sophisticated sound. Halfway through the song, the tempo switches, perhaps a signal for a gentle buckle-up: enchantment is on its way.
“I’m Not Coming Back” is the first single to be released, which borrows a Bee-Gees sound just for the chorus’s harmonies. Rest assured that no disco associations follow, just deliciously thought-provoking imagery from Gawenda’s insight – “The last thing that I noticed as that old train came around was the city burning golden as the sun came sliding down”.
“Heartbeat” is authentically folky and again plays with the Simon & Garfunkel sound, as well as Crosby, Stills & Nash – a delightful modern fusion that I am going to nickname Sigar & Crollsh just for this review.
“Arrow” shows off the band’s versatility and on the harmony front, it’s as though Bon Iver met the Beach Boys (or is it the other way around?). The chorus is somewhat poppy but lovable all the same and makes for a sweet halfway point in the album. The lyrics – “Never know when it’s coming, never know when it’s going…” – are rhythmic and soothing; it will have you picturing barefoot fairies dressed in loose linen leaping in and out of tall foliage in an unruly garden.
“Saint Joan” is wonderfully catchy; it’s understandable why it was presented to Triple J listeners as a sneak preview of the album. “Watch out, here I go,” sings Gawenda – this could be a road trippin’ number and would be cracking to hear live. The same goes for “Wild And See” which eventually treats us to a wondrously synchronised pounding of piano and drums.
Gawenda has hinted that “Fats Domino” was the trickiest song to get right in the studio. This track encompasses the Husky sound, like recognising a friend you haven’t met before. “Gold In Her Pockets” is a compelling song from the get-go and invokes a similar feeling: a sense of familiarity, a homely vibe of sorts – a sensation that stirs and recurs throughout the album. Whatever it is, it significantly acts as an adhesive that binds all songs – including the entrancing campfire lullaby that is “Mirror” and the theatrical “Leaner Days” which could pass for a rock opera snippet.
“Deep Sky River” is fitting for the album’s closing: “If I could only reach you… the dust has settled all around you” – Gawenda has not only reached out to us, but he has romanced, cradled and inspired us in the process.
When compared to Forever So, the melodies of Rucker’s Hill are gutsier, with the overall sound being more folk than indie. Husky have a great presence, and as their music rolls out from the speakers it’s easy to pretend they are standing as one, serenading in the lounge room.
The tracks chosen for the album were shortlisted from about fifty. It took Husky around eighteen months to complete the album, a lot longer than planned, but creative struggles are nowhere to be found after pressing play, only a masterful togetherness and mesmerising simplicity. The songs of Rucker’s Hill have multi-layered endearing complexities that flow easier than a lazy Sunday morning. The album is so well crafted that it’s hard to believe it’s only the band’s second.
The Sigar & Crollsh sound pops up again in the upbeat and harmony-rich “Drunk”, telling us – “I feel the time is coming, for you, for me, for everybody” – aptly representing the 13 songs of Rucker’s Hill as this album will leave you with a longing for the stories that you are yet to live, rather than the stories you are waiting to hear about. It’s likely that you won’t be blown away with a first listen, but that is not important, because the album’s magic is deeply embedded and a sure thing. Just like burning an essential oil takes time to fill your home with a rich aroma, the enchantment of Rucker’s Hill will slow-release itself into your mind, and ultimately your heart where it will keep you warm and full.
4.5 out of 5
Key tracks: “Saint Joan”, “Arrow”, “Heartbeat”
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