Release Date: Jul 12, 2011
Record label: PIAS
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
This Australian band is named for a region in conflict and makes music that often resonates with the lush beauty of Swedish pop. But on this, their second full-length, the Queensland musicians borrow heavily from Americana folk. The result is a melancholy brew. (Funny, given the joy-affirming album title.) Their attempt to capture the campfire quality of Cash and Company is pleasant, but it’s the details (found sounds in “Sydney to Newcastle,” the whispering saxophone of “Mount Morgan”) that linger.
Despite a few twee-feeling song titles like “Dan’s Silverleaf” and “Jesus Came to My Birthday Party,” the debut album from the Australian seven-piece known as The Middle East is pretty far from being the feel-good hit of the summer. This is, after all, an album that starts out with “Black Death 1349.” The majority of the songs here keep a sort of dark and introspective quietude, with occasional bursts of melodrama. Numbers like the simple, piano-based lament of “My Grandma Was Pearl Hall” and the equally sparse “Ninth Avenue Reverie” are driven by the emotive power of vocalist Rohin Jones, who manages to make even the most bare-bones arrangements bloom with dramatic and heartfelt intensity.
The Middle East, from Australia, know how to make a beautiful sound. The folk-inspired pop on I Want That You Are Always Happy is the kind of sound bands like Mumford & Sons wish they could make. It’s energetic instead of shrill, deliberate rather than plodding, and the best parts of this record mesh a pop sensibility with the dusty folk feel of stringed instruments without dulling down either side.