13 Track, LP (2012, Chapter Music)
Related: New Estate.
I think I saw New Estate the very first time I went to Melbourne. The edges of those memories are a little worn down now but this scrappy pop band always reminds me of my first glimpses of the city: the cold low-set houses, pub food, dirty clothes, New Zealanders, handcraft. I also remember New Estate’s drummer Larry G, a name I just recalled from memory having not laid eyes on him in maybe five or six years. I remember he wore a white business shirt and a fat red tie to the show I saw. When asked about it, he said, “This? Oh man, because I need to get a job!” Who cares about phone numbers and birthdays and anniversaries when there’s stuff like this to remember.
On Recovery, the band’s fourth album, New Estate do pretty much what I always recall them doing, except there’s more piano. According to the press release, they recorded all this at home - in GarageBand - but it doesn’t really show. There’s horns and sleigh bells and multi-tracked vocal parts. It doesn’t sound slack. The guitars and drums are spread out across the stereo field. It all sounds worked on. And while the mix gets a little murky here and there I actually like that about it. Rock music shouldn’t ever be too clear. You should never be able to consume it and still feel neat.
Over the course of the album, the singers switch around and I expected this so I don’t have a preference. Mia Schoen does a fine line in Velvet Underground meets Flying Nun meets Thalia Zedek (or maybe that’s just how it sounds in my head). There’s an understated swagger to the way she sings. On the other hand, Marc Regueiro-McKelvie does the brighter, faster, weirder ones and as a fan of his other band (the shoegazing Popolice), it’s always fun to hear how his dreamier tracks fit into this slightly more formal pop ensemble. Throughout, the rhythm section stays on beat and all of Larry’s fills sound like they came to him as he played them. In short, everyone contributes and these roles I’ve just noted aren’t anywhere near as separate as I make out.
I don’t really want to but if I had to pick a favourite I’d go with track five, ‘Diamonds’. I can’t really make out all the lyrics but it’s still beautiful and simple, like much of the album. I’m sure a lot of work went into all these songs actually but when this album plays on my stereo it just sounds comforting. It drifts through my dingy apartment, in the Brisbane winter, and it doesn’t feel like I’m staring at a monument or reading the business pages or hearing careful steps. I feel like I’m looking at a landscape or listening to a group of friends hanging out, and I probably am.
by Ian Rogers