Take Your Light
11 Track, LP (2011, MGM Distribution)
Related: Little Scout.
On the occasion of their first release, Little Scout were more of a recording project than an actual band. Pieced together from the mid-2008 remnants of Rooftop Nightwatch, vocalist Melissa Tickle and guitarist Patrick Elliott enlisted Tickle’s sister, Kirsty, and released The Dead Loss EP. The record turned heads, but listening back to it now you’d be forgiven for wondering why: its twee acoustic pop came sprinkled with promise but hardly broke the boundaries of indie music at the time. It was easy to imagine Little Scout disappearing back beneath the waves of Brisbane’s busy live music scene.
But in an age of tightening album cycles it’s refreshing to find a band willing to hold their wicket and accumulate the runs. Taking three years to release your first long player does seem a little pre-millennium, but the now four-piece – courtesy of the addition of drummer Miro Mackie – have been intelligent enough to benefit from the gestation. They’d already shown signs of evolution on 2009’s sharp, pithy follow-up EP, Different in the Distance, but Take Your Light is another beast entirely: gone is anything excessively quaint, replaced instead by a sleek, brooding sound, clouded and full of rolling thunder.
It’s natural to wonder how much of an effect the ring-ins had on this album. Recorded and mixed in the garage of precocious Sydney talent Jonathan Boulet and produced by The John Steel Singers’ Scott Bromiley, the two no doubt brought plenty to the recording process. But there are some aspects of this album that were clearly driven by the band themselves. The musicianship is streets ahead of anything we’ve heard from Little Scout so far – surely in no small part to their almost endless touring over the past year – and appropriately it’s been brought forward in the mix, taking centre stage throughout the running time of Take Your Light.
Conversely, Melissa Tickle’s vocals have been shifted towards the back. This might sound like a sign of disrespect, but it could actually prove to be Little Scout’s masterstroke: Tickle sounds like she’s singing from the rafters, and what was before warm and endearing is now slightly mysterious, ghost-like, and at times ice cold.
This dark treatment fits the band surprisingly well. Cuts such as ‘In The Air’ and ‘We Are Walking Out’ feature a heady propulsion, one that makes your head nod rather than bounce. Elsewhere, there’s a wall-of-sound feel to some of the recordings, particularly on the haunting ‘You Will Fold’, a soundscape that clocks in at only a minute-and-a-half, but may actually be the clearest demonstration of the band’s evolution. But Little Scout in 2011 are perhaps best encapsulated by their reinvention of ‘Dead Loss’, the track that introduced them to local audiences almost three years ago. What was an endearing, jangly slice of pop has been carefully planed down into a tight, percussive and yet dreamlike stomp.
Take Your Light is a fine record in its own right, but what’s most satisfying is the promise it holds for Little Scout’s future. They were once tempting to dismiss as having reached their full potential, but the band’s growth now feels like its only just beginning to bear fruit.
by Matt Shea