The Jezabels

The Brink

Written by: TL on 18/02/2014 12:01:40

In 2011 Australia's The Jezabels were one of the best new bands coming out with their debut album "Prisoner", on which the band unearthed the chill, breezy grandeur of 80s new romanticism and set it up pristinely and startlingly relevant in the soundscape of the 21st century. Rising up around the virtuous, Kate Bush-ish vocal work of lead singer Hayley Mary, the band created a perfectly tempered, yet elegantly dramatic atmosphere that completely enchanted the listener and bid them stay for the duration of the album even when only coming in for one song. Truly, "Prisoner"'s only flaw worth mentioning was that it didn't always get around to topping things off with choruses that were quite worth the build ups, an area the band - completed by guitarist Samuel Lockwood, keyboardist Heather Shannon and drummer Nik Kaloper - sets out to improve on this year's "The Brink".

At first glance, "The Brink" finds The Jezabels in familiar territory, with steady, mid-tempo beats laying down a foundation for the expansive musical world created by the stately interplay between the guitar and synth. Both are employed minimalistically, with simple, well-timed notes and chords swirling around each other in beautiful harmonies, and opening with its title track, the album is dark yet hopeful and larger than life, allowing prior fans to feel right at home when Mary deploys her otherworldly falsetto for the "bring back my spirit and my soul" cries towards the end.

The night lifts as soon as subtle guitar picking opens "Time To Dance" however, feeling like lights coming on in the city just before dawn, and as Hayley asks through lines of frustration when it's "time to dance" you sense the complete confidence the music has in the contrast between instruments and vocals and the drama and the playfulness, without one thing standing out at the cost of the other. "Look Of Love" almost gets carried away from the former song's worries though, romanticising the whole idea of falling in love with a hint of melancholic distance you can only get from someone who was singing "never fall in love again" just a few tracks ago. Not that the listener needs to pay attention to such subtleties in here, because the song's hook has the kind of melody that needs no context or content to wedge itself into your head for days and days, making you sing along mindlessly.

On both "Look Of Love" and the following "Beat To Beat" The Jezabels allow their poppier tendencies to glow more strongly, with especially Shannon's keys welling up under the choruses in shameless synth pop fashion, and combined with the unbelievable high vocal notes in the refrain of the latter, these songs make for some of the most striking moments the band has written to date. Still, it feels like an emotional homecoming as soon as "No Country" takes you back to the dreamy, cinematic style that carried "Prisoner", and there's a heartbreaking tenderness about it when Mary softly sings "He said, I won't dirty you when we're making love", and while I wonder why that line wasn't given a more central position in the freely winding track, I still think it'll make for a kind of underappreciated fan favourite behind the more obvious singles.

Speaking of singles, the album's leading one "The End" is a straight up one at that, providing another infectious melody despite being almost a bit anxious relative to the band's usual temperament. Sadly the following two numbers "Got Velvet" and "Psychotherapy" make for somewhat more down to earth impressions along with the earlier "Angels Of Fire", all three of which seem less focused, and while they sustain the Jezabels' vibe solidly, they're more like background listening on the way to "All You Need", which sends the record off calmly on the back of some tasteful synth and tremolo dynamics. It bookends a second transcendent effort in a row for one of the most unique and exciting bands in the current musical climate, and despite a couple of slightly less exciting songs towards the end, I'd say the competition for getting on my "Albums of the year" list in 2014 is officially on.

Download: Look Of Love, No Country, Beat To Beat
For The Fans Of: The Killers, White Lies, The Joy Formidable, Texas
Listen: facebook.com/TheJezabels

Release Date 17.02.2014
MGM / Waterfront / Mom + Pop Music

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