Tuesday, December 16, 2008
When it comes to overlooked gems from 2008 it's likely that this record by the relatively unknown Millers Tale duo will be considered, and so it should be. Though The Millers Tale have been making music for over a decade now this is only their third album and it seems, judging by the pace of the music, their absence of hunger for fame and the thoughtfulness with which it is crafted, they're in no hurry.
It's an odd, moody atmosphere that they make, thanks partly to the warmly intimate production of Wayne Connolly and the easy inter-band familiarity discernible in the songwriting and the way singer and bassist Rebecca Quade and guitarist, vocalist and husband John Maclean leave space for each other.
The instrumentation is wonderfully sparse and perfectly judged. Drummer Dave Kleynjans and J. Walker's pedal steel seem to accentuate the emptiness and overwhelming sense of geography in the songs. To be in a position this comfortable that allows songs this warm and enveloping to be made must be a glorious thing, and rather than flaunt their closeness Quade and Maclean offer tea and biscuits and give you a guided tour.
Constellation is a doleful ode to companionship while Within The Year is haunting in its plaintiveness and reminder of how easily we can fall into traps of our own making. Wasn't The One For You with it's opening lines of "You met her randomly / At the Canberra Leagues / She signed you in 'cause you weren't a member" could be from anytime in the last 20 years and still be as brilliant. It's a funny song about misguided relationships but as with the rest of the album, there is an inherent sadness lingering through its keening verses.
It's a deceptive simplicity The Millers Tale ply. Maclean's smoothly shifting chords (clearly a veteran of Underground Lovers records and quite possibly shoegaze in an earlier life), Quade's melodic bass and gorgeous voice all work to serve the songs with a deft touch and that not to mention the erudite lyrics. Stories are told and images evoked with a poet's flair. This really is a dynamite album, perfect for solo traveling, and one you're almost guaranteed not to hear unless you seek it. Overland is an album as Australian as Henry Lawson riding Phar Lap past the Dog on the Tuckerbox while eating a Vegemite Sandwich. Lowest of low keys but mightily inspired.