21 Track, LP (2012, Vacant Valley)
Related: Pop Singles.
This is an album for fans of The Chills, The Smiths and The Go-Betweens, fans who sigh on listening and wish they were born 20 years earlier. Or, just as likely, sigh and wish they were 20 years younger. As much as Melbourne's Pop Singles recall the sounds of all those names, it's that feeling of being out of time, that melancholic sense of having missed out or lost touch that comes across most strongly. On All Gone, their first LP, Pop Singles leave individuals in limbo, lost among chorus pedals and melancholic bass lines. "Well maybe I'm here and maybe I'm not," sings Tam Matlakowski on 'Field of Flames,' a line that could be inserted into any of these songs concerned with the unloved, the forgotten and the lost.
Detailing twenty-something insecurities seems to be Pop Singles' prerogative, but depending on your frame, they could be just as much about the confusion and uncertainty of growing up and forming new relationships as the tiring of adulthood. Restraining himself from his feelings on 'Hold You Tight,' Matlakowski eventually sees his relationship die just as he gives in. "You brought me here without emotions/and left me when I tried to find them," he sings, as much the bewildered boyfriend as the cynical husband.
Across the record, he's forever questioning himself and those around him. "Why can't I believe in anything?"; "Has something come between us? Have I grown old?"; "Why won't you just admit a thing or two?" Nothing is ever certain for Pop Singles, and as beautiful as they make life out to be, it's never something that seems to come easily for their subjects. Even at the moment where they can see a way out, they frighten of the outside world and settle for timid admissions. "It's getting harder to relate to anyone but you," Matlakowski sings in resignation.
Probing the lyrics does a disservice to the emotions the band manage to get across so effortlessly. Bassist Pete Bramley provides most of the melodies underneath Matlakowski's jangling guitar, with 'Are You Still There' seeing Bramley meander around the swoon provided by Matlakowski's doubtful waver. Behind them sits the keys and drums of Ashleigh Wyatt, bringing with her the post-punk strut required of these songs. Together, they flood the album with a sense of distant joy, serving as distractions from their tales of obscured insecurities.
All Gone feels timeless, which makes the fact that it leaves you feeling so out of time quite strange. It treads a blurred emotional territory, tracing a place where things are never quite settled but where hope remains for some kind of vague happiness in the distance nonetheless.
by Max Easton