Release Date: May 23, 2011
Record label: Ivy League
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Pop
Having formed on the spur of the moment for a local Battle of the Bands contest, New South Wales quartet Cloud Control certainly appear to have extolled the virtues of spontaneity after recently winning the Australian Music Prize for their debut album, Bliss Release. As its title suggests, its ten tracks are a tour de force in psychedelic dream pop whose warm, lush harmonies, chilled-out vibes, and organic production from Belles Will Ring's Liam Judson are perfectly suited for a drive along the coastlines of the Blue Mountain-area, where the band originates. Opener "Meditation Song #2 (Why Oh Why)" blends Fleet Foxes-esque pastoral folk with distorted guitar riffs and handclapped rhythms, and Alister Wright and Heidi Lenffer's ethereal dual vocals to produce a glorious blast of sun-soaked, '60s-tinged pop.
There's an appealing open-heartedness about the debut from Australian psychedelic poppers Cloud Control, a sense of wide-eyed, slightly fried wonder. You might even pin down their entire worldview to a single line in the song Ghost Story: "I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up." Singer Alister Wright sounds so amazed by everything that one suspects he could conjure awe out of a parking permit renewal reminder. That's something they share with Fleet Foxes, and on the single Gold Canary, with its careful harmonies and Wright's vibrato-less, open-throated singing, they come close to sounding like the Seattle group.
With buzz bands like Cults, Givers, Tennis, and every other single-word-named group throwing their hat in the ring for the title of Band of the Moment, nostalgic, poppy music is nearly inescapable these days. As catchy as their melodies may be, as sugary as the vocals are (and, man, are they sweet), there’s always something missing. Whether its structure, cohesiveness, or a sound that never wears, the albums stick for a listen or two and then fade.
It must be tedious at times, this business of making music, selling records and touring round the world. Upbeat folk-rockers Cloud Control probably have less to complain about than most. Their debut album, Bliss Release, came out in their native Australia almost exactly a year ago and in March it won them the Australian Music Prize (like the Mercury, but the water goes down the plughole in the opposite direction or something).
Upon only minimal initial exposure to their music, even the average listener couldn’t be blamed for having the temptation to dismiss Aussie indie rock upstarts Cloud Control for just being one of the more recent in a long, long — long — line of Anglo rock bands that just happens to have an uncanny talent for impossibly irresistible pop melodies. They’ve already caused quite a commotion in the Anglosphere and beyond, but if Cloud Control ultimately do become one of those countless one-hit wonder bands that pop in and out of NME or that suddenly get ridiculous heaps of praise dumped on them by Rolling Stone — only to never be heard of ever again — it would be a real shame, because close listens reveal that there’s plenty to be appreciated on their debut album, Bliss Release. To be sure, everything about Cloud Control seems to scream business as usual, but their ability to both weave together the sounds/styles of quite disparate influences and make them their own proves to be the decisive factor in turning their music into something special.
[a]Cloud Control[/a] come to us having won last year’s Australian equivalent of the Mercury Prize, which, in a year that also produced [a]Tame Impala[/a]’s [b]‘Innerspeaker’[/b], is high praise indeed. The likes of the shimmering, Chills-y gloom of [b]‘My Fear #2’[/b] and the wailed prophecy of [b]‘There’s Nothing In The Water We Can’t Fight’[/b] more than justify the gong.Elsewhere, their magpie eye for blending folk, post-punk guitar runs and The Big Music can outrun their ability to get to the point, and a compensating layer of grave seriousness comes across as merely dull. On a scale of [a]Speech Debelle[/a] to [a]Klaxons[/a], they’re more towards the Gomez end of the list.
This Australian outfit gets things off to a nice start here—a marriage of Avi Buffalo and Fleet Foxes, latter day U2’s swagger gets thrown in with touches of Beatles-esque vocal harmonies. The good stuff is most evident on the very tip of the album’s front end when the song quality is fairly high and the ambitions are low. The opening “Meditation Song #2 (Why, Oh Why)” drones and dribbles like the Black Angels joined in holy communion with some sort of hitherto unknown freak-folk outfit from the outer reaches of Slovenia.
The prospects of them storming the charts seem thunderously fine. Iain Moffatt 2011 Are other countries' equivalents of the Mercury Prize just as potentially poisonous as our version (what with the decline of Gomez, the difficult drama of Klaxons, and the recent fall from universal critical acclaim of Elbow)? If so, we probably ought to be terribly concerned for nearly-Sydney foursome Cloud Control. This record won Australia's version, which hasn't exactly led to international recognition for predecessors such as...