The Boat People
Often when somebody asks me the dangerous question of what I think about the current state of Australian mainstream 'indie' music I reply with a long condemning rant about the crowded marketplace of over-produced pop bands, all focusing their complete attention on getting played on Triple J. The Boat People may have just made me re-think this tough (and somewhat bitter) stance.
Chandeliers is an undeniably brilliant, rich and honest pop record. Every inch of catchiness is matched and even occasionally exceeded by a clever lyric or a fitting guitar riff. Every cute and bright coloured flash is contrasted by a bittersweet poetic sentence or sharp tempo change. There aren't too many explosions of emotion or dramatic twists, with the band instead choosing to keep the song's paths within their control and letting the detailed arrangements and well-thought out lyrics push their message.
Essentially, it's the excellent songwriting, split between Robin Waters and James O'Brien, that is the heart of this album and the key element that separates Chandeliers from it's many competitors. The music is an enjoyable accompaniment, but it's the words that give this album it's life, allowing the songs to flow in a natural, unforced way.
The Boat People are not only cleverer than the average 'indie pop' group but are also a lot more consistent. Chandeliers isn't just an album built around a handful of previously released radio-approved singles. Each song carries it's own weight, yet at the same time this album feels like a single body of work. To be so pop-focused and still give off such a strong feeling of artistic freedom is extremely rare, but the group balance this perfectly.
The way in which the band blur the line between art and pop sensibility is aided by the detailed, complimentary production. Handled by J. Walker from Machine Translations, the focus of the album is definitely on the music being tightly arranged, yet not over-cooked. The small touches of looser, (almost) live-sounding elements and the way in which the songs are built around the heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics give the record it's charm and sincerity.
If this is the kind of pop music that is currently dominating the radio waves then I couldn't be happier.