The Lucksmiths are a Sunday morning band. You put them on while you read the paper, drinking coffee, lounging with your beloved. This is not necessarily a new idea I‘ve posed, but one I’m reminded of each time a new album of theirs is presented to me. They are lovely, considerate people, and a sincere band with a consistent voice that continues to evolve even now, nearly 15 years since their first release.
On their new album, for which they went into virtual seclusion in Tasmania, off the coast of their native-Australia, they depart from their solidly pop catalogue to venture out of bounds with some surprising results. “Never and Always” has a riff that veers into Queens of the Stone Age territory. This is one of Louis Richter‘s songs (the other being “The Town and the Hills”) and it is a solid addition to the mix.
Part of the greatness of this album is that thematically, it really works. Overwhelmingly, I got a Laurel Canyon vibe from the more mellow songs, namely “California in Popular Song.” Moreover, “Who Turned on the Lights” has a pastoral feel with an opening Van Morrison might have done.
“Southeast Coastal Rendezvous” has big fuzz guitars which are a welcome addition, combined with ubiquitous tambourine. “Lament of the Chiming Wedgebill,” a country-like duet with Bec Rigby (The Harpoons) took some getting used to, but there‘s a heaviness to her voice that‘s a good foil for Tali White‘s. “National Mitten Registry” could be a sweet, but not saccharine, lullaby for a friend‘s newborn. “Song of the Undersea,“ adapted from John Steinbeck‘s The Pearl, has a rambling baseline that carries the lyrics along easily.
This is not to say there aren’t moments of classic Lucksmiths on this one — “Good Light” feels like a new incarnation of “Camera Shy” (Naturaliste, 2003). “The Town and the Hills” is jangly pop with cheeky lyrics and a good heart guiding the strum. Three minutes into the song the trumpet chimes in, appropriately. I admit to missing Tali White‘s usually frenetic drums on the majority of tracks, but they would be misplaced here — this is a sit-down album and Mr. White normally plays standing up.
Although the first listen to the album is a little tough if you’re a rabid fan of their uptempo stuff, First Frost is a grower, and The Lucksmiths exploration into new arenas is a success.