Who exactly My Own Pet Radio is (Sam Cromack) and what he’s about should become apparent to anyone paying attention to the Australian independent music scene over the next 12 months. Singer and songwriter with current Triple J hypees Ball Park Music, Cromack is a prolific individual, with this first full-length release following on from his band’s two EPs and four singles, all released in 2010. With a proliferation of deftly played acoustic and electronic instruments, and responsible for all singing and production duties, the album, like its artwork, shows Cromack is fascinated by structure and assembly.
At times, Unidentified Flying Collection of Songs sounds like a learning process, though an eminently listenable one. When Cromack occasionally risks losing songs to production experiments it’s never in an egotistic way, and nothing here, no catchy hook or spiralling effect, outstays its welcome. Listening to the album puts you in the unusual situation of not knowing what the next song will do once one, usually abruptly, ends. Album highlight and closing track How Strange You Are evokes melancholy Kiwi pop, All Colours disappears into a gorgeously unhinged vocal arrangements, while The Banana Situation offers wry and catchy self-analysis.
Cromack’s inspired mix of low-fi production works in favour of the music. Opening track I Am Having Such a Good Time Here is a hilarious mix of acoustic guitar and harpsichord-driven verses, which explodes to a vocal-drenched hook of a chorus. Like other parts of the album, it’s reminiscent of Beck, when he was still driven by a sense of adventure.
Though it’s unlikely many other musicians could assemble an album with this sense of inventiveness and playful intelligence, the most notable achievement here is that Cromack drives the whole album with a quality that is sadly bereft from most new Australian music, personality.