10 years, two mini albums, one full length debut, numerous shows in their native Australia, and Japan, later, Art Of Fighting sign to Bella Union and deliver the stunning ‘Second Storey’.
10 years. That’s a gestation period which even elephants would baulk at. This particular baby, like any other, needs to be carefully nurtured but particularly so here because on first play, the subtle production is likely to wash over the listener. Yet, upon repeated listening, one will grow to love ‘Second Storey’, a breathtakingly bleak but eerily beautiful album which is up there with anything by Bright Eyes or Arcade Fire. Yes, really, that good.
Singer / guitarist Ollie Browne’s plaintive vocals switch between Art Garfunkel and Tim Booth, singing songs about love, loss and redemption. It may be a sunny day in Sydney but Browne on ‘Along The Run’ can’t shake those relationship breakdown blues: ‘The wind with its awful sound / The sun with its simple shade / I always see your face’. Somehow one knows how he feels - and it isn’t very nice.
Indeed, ‘Second Storey’ is not a ‘happy’ album but it is certainly an emotive one: calling one of your songs ‘Busted, Broken, Forgotten’ says it all really. ‘Two Rivers’ is wracked with tension, so much so that when the post-rock breakdown kicks in it, it’s positively heartbreaking.
‘Where Trouble Lived’ opens the ‘second half’ of the album and it’s something of a relief to hear Peggy Frew’s seductive tones which bring to mind Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval. The mood changes apace: the driving ‘Sing Song’ spits ‘If you really want to know how I feel / Take a fucking look into my eyes’ before dropping into a brief, bittersweet harmony. ‘Real Time’ opens with all the broody, bad vibes of a stalker movie.
The cinematic ‘Heart Translation’ closes ‘Second Storey’. It’s awash with sweeping strings, mournful piano, and Browne sounds absolutely shattered: ‘Heart, translate / because I don’t understand anything you say’. Quite honestly I felt shattered.
‘Second Storey’ then is a cathartic, emotive, and at times, uncomfortable album, and one of this year’s best. Look, it made me cry: what more recommendation do you need?
9Anthony Gibbons's Score