Matches, the third release from Melbourne’s The Motifs, is a rare treat. Put together by The Motifs main lady, Alexis Hall, during a recent extended sojourn to Nishinomiya in Japan, it collects pretty much the sweetest 10.2 minutes you’ll find on an Australian pop release from the last year. Over six songs Hall presents an idyllic version of pop, akin to the very first single releases delivered by Glaswegian’s Camera Obscura, Melbourne’s Minimum Chips, and the more lilting moments of Yo La Tengo, complete with lo-fi drum machines, fey melodies, hand claps and harmonies.
Built around an acoustic guitar, keyboards, lyrics filled with a compelling na’vet?, and vocals delivered through pop clich’s, The Motifs make songs that should be twee standards but come out sounding less standard, and more like songs – really, really good ones. One of the strengths Hall embeds in her songs is their brevity. There’s very rarely more than verse-chorus-bridge-verse, or a variation thereof, and the apparent M.O. means there are no musical tautologies and only room for a condensed version of super sweet bliss.
With releases in Japan and, now, Britain, The Motifs present an admirable contribution to the international pop underground, and a contribution that’s difficult not to adore. I remember the late John Peel calling Camera Obscura the year’s brightest hope in 2002. If I had the audacity to seem as relevant as he I’d say pretty much the same thing of The Motifs in 2008.