Record Reviews

Healing Crystals

?I’m cast away/I’m cooking chips to pass the day.? That’s a typical, and telling, line from Cool Sounds? second album. Healing Crystals finds the Melbourne sextet not so much charting personal progress as finding different ways to sing about treading water. ?I’m wearing thin of this trip we’ve found ourselves in,? sighs the opening line of the single ?Death Boys?. Like their guitar-pop compatriots in [The Ocean Party](/search/?q=ocean+party) and [Weak Boys](/releases/2001422), Cool Sounds take a close look at themselves and aren’t exactly thrilled with what they see.

But where The Ocean Party mine intimate details and Weak Boys deal in wry witticisms, Cool Sounds rely on their pleasantly layered music (and vocals) to offset what would otherwise be fairly mopey material. It’s disappointment made pretty, thanks to guitars that wag and glisten familiarly in the breeze. If some songs merely follow a pleasant sort of cruise control, others tease out enough fresh elements – whether backing vocals from Harmony’s Amanda Roff and Totally Mild’s Ashley Bundang or now-regular saxophone licks from The Ocean Party’s Liam Halliwell – to draw us deeper into those honeyed layers.

Still, it’s not the most extroverted, energised stuff. Of the three guitarists, Dainis Lacey and Nick Kearton both sing with a softness that can sacrifice the clarity of their lyrics. But the key sentiment always comes through: ?You’re not around anymore,? laments ?Ghost Boys?, while ?Wifi? admits ?I’m trying to act cool? and promises ?I’ll be a better friend than I was.? And frivolous titles like ?Big League Chew? and ?Pizzas? bely bleak, simply-worded revelations like ?My ego’s shot.? On ?Night Line?, which finds soft-focus middle ground between ?80s jangle (think The Go-Betweens or Orange Juice) and ?80s dags (think Lionel Richie or Phil Collins), the lyrics hinge on the hope for romantic salvation: ?Staring into your eyes, you’re the one that can save me now.? ?You’re just in time,? goes the next line.

Such spindly, gauzy pop songs recall the meek gorgeousness of US bands like Wild Nothing and Melted Toys. And despite fitting comfortably into the current Australian indie pop scene, Melbourne-specific references don’t really factor into Healing Crystals. It’s much more universal than that, but that also makes it feel more general, like a popular story retold without too many distinguishing flourishes of one’s own. Still, when those do come, as when ?Death Boys? briefly dips into a ghostly, uncertain spiral just before its bridge, they’re encouraging signs that Cool Sounds are already on their way to something more distinctive.