Francis Jones is pleasantly surprised by Kowalski's Are You Noisy Sunshine State?
Alternative Ulster’s 3rd Birthday Party, 24 bands, the majority of whom I had already seen or heard. Not so Kowalski, but serendipity was smiling and out of the multitude of excellent acts it was the stumbled upon, emotion-flexing indie-rockers who stood out.
Theirs was an intelligent, instantly beguiling brand of guitar tomfoolery, wistful one moment, crushing the next, the listener’s affections squeezed in an unremitting vice. I determined to investigate further and, my luck holding fast, discovered that the four-piece were imminently set to release a new EP, Are You Noisy Sunshine State?
What an irrepressible, effervescent five-track of musical goodness it is. This band has a real grasp of songwriting dynamics. The tracks build deftly, the individual constituents conjoining to create a sense of urgency and a heart enmeshing whole.
At times the lyrics are altogether impressionistic, if not abstract, but strength of feeling carries the message through.
The opening ‘See-Saw’ sets a tender trap, that breezy, summertime synth and meandering guitar line reaching a brutal resolution. The guitars suddenly beef up, the chords become crisp and menacing, the drums uncompromising and primal.
Unfortunately, ‘Duck, Duck Goose!’ does not exhibit quite the same level of invention, it is perfectly passable indie, but lacks the brio and brain ingratiating melodies on show elsewhere.
Pedestrian shoe-gazing rock makes way for star gazing magnificence with ‘Answers On A Postcard’. The quiet/loud transition is masterful, guitar, bass and drums pushing to a precipice of sound before cruelly falling away, the plangent vocal of lead singer Louis ensnaring our attention.
The production is perfectly nuanced, the addition of strings fermenting a fittingly heady crescendo. The following ‘Sunshine State’ is no less impressive. Gargantuan rhythms are the primary element in this volatile compound. The roiling bass is particularly resplendent in creating a fluid template for Bloc Party guitar stylings.
‘And I Am So Base’ provides a radiant last cut. The backing singer and horn embellishments add to the sense of fragility that pervades the track.
Suffice to say that Are You Happy Sunshine State? is an impressive statement of intent, the kind of record you want to listen to again and often.
For fans of:
Pavement, REM, Idlewild