(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

CD review, Little Red, Midnight Remember (2010/2011)

Lush, dreamy and summery, crossing Roxy Music with the Beach Boys

Melbourne's Little Red released Midnight Remember last year in Australia, where it did fairly well on the charts. A streamlined version is releasing late next month in North America on True Panther records. They've remastered the Australian release, stripped out 4 tracks, and added one new one. I can't speak to the missing tracks, but the American release manages to strike a coherent mood while varying the sound of the individual songs.

Picture a hot, lazy summer afternoon. Napping in the shade, you feel a slight breeze. Maybe you even hear the clink of ice slowly melting in your drink. Eyes lightly shut, all is right in the world. Midnight Remember would serve as the perfect soundtrack.

Beach Boys harmonies fill out the vocals on almost every song, contributing to that sunny sound. At the same time, most of the songs have a distant, dream pop vibe that provides the space to appreciate that mood. There are plenty of sonic comparisons: the lush arrangements and rich vocals recall Roxy Music, while the emotional honesty evokes Vampire Weekend or a dozen similar bands.

Individual songs also stand out this way. Follow You There, starts out with a minimalist guitar and a simple solo voice. But the track builds and reaches for an epic, early U2-style arena sound. It's an uplifting moment that really succeeds because of Little Red's ability to manage the dynamics. By contrast, Chelsworth uses a harmonica and piano line to evoke Darkness-era Springsteen. At the same time, both of these songs combine the influences with more modern indie-rock elements to avoid sounding like a pastiche.

The big single is Rock It, a dance happy number locked into a bass line, a beat, and piano comping. Part The Hustle by Van McCoy, the retro disco vibe is catchy. A brief, seven second electronic bridge is the only modern touch. It's not bad, but it's not the most interesting song on Midnight Remember.

For my money, I'd pick All Mine for that honor. It also features a touch of Springsteen (a down tempo Tenth Avenue Freezeout), but the simple intro builds into something lush and rewarding. The longing in the vocal, "I tell myself it takes time but I keep waiting, I keep waiting" is palpable. The subtle swell of electric guitars just before they enter in force during the second chorus is perfect. Retro and timeless all at once, the music projects emotional need while still fitting into the lazy summer of the rest of the album.

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