Review : Husky - Forever So
PopmattersWith all the indie folk-pop bands extant today, it can be a challenge not to feel the market has become oversaturated. So many seem content not to contest, or outright play up to, the clichéd trope of the sensitive dude with an acoustic guitar who fashions himself a coffeehouse troubadour. It’s understandable why this pitfall is so often succumbed to, as finding the innovation and originality to avoid it is no easy task. After all, the subgenre itself is fairly limiting in what musicians can do while still fitting into its scope. However, there are those who emerge able to craft their own spin on the form and sidestep the plummet to redundancy, among them being Australian quartet Husky.
What separates the foursome’s (Husky Gawenda, Gideon Press, Evan Tweedie and Luke Collins) debut album, Forever So, from the heap is the group’s focus not only on the songs themselves, but on ambience. Recorded in a makeshift studio behind Gawenda’s rental home, the record carries with it a palpable atmosphere, that of a summer spent in humid, sun-blinding days and cool nights overseen by a full moon. The songs could be divided into two fields, the nocturnal and the diurnal, with the marble cake-like entwining of the realms rendering the album as a whole a twilight feel. Were the rules of grammar to permit the use of this word as a verb, it could be said the album “gloams”.
Gawenda’s lyrical concerns don’t venture too far from established hallmarks, primarily focusing on relationship dynamics (whether apparently personal or from an objective narrator point of view), communicated via imagery of the natural world. Musically, though, Husky has mastered something special, most of the record’s 13 songs seamlessly weaving melodies or abruptly shifting time signatures as though disparate songs had been stitched together. Just when a tune runs the risk of turning into acoustic-by-numbers-Nick-Drake-aping, unforeseen instrumentation and rhythms emerge, pulling the listener from complacency.
Opener “Tidal Wave”, with its sparse piano notes, guitar strums and vocal harmonies, arrives with the charm of an afternoon hammock sway. Some banjo plucking and distant-sounding drums come to prominence before you’re sideswiped by the funky, swaggering breakdown. It’s an all too brief deviation, but it gets your attention and prepares you for similar left-field pitches that pop up throughout the record. The first song to hook you from the outset is second track, “Fake Moustache”, a psychedelic pop tune defined by a cowbell thud and fluttering guitar lines in the verses. Come the chorus, a hallucinatory swirl arrives, sweeping Gawenda’s breathy vocals along (the fact his voice is mixed much on the same level as the instruments yields much to this vertigo sensation). The surreal imagery of the lackadaisical verses (“My head’s a lion / My heart is a butterfly”) contrasts with the fatalism of the chorus (“I wasn’t built for this world / I’m slipping”), imbuing the song with the mysterious quality that runs throughout the album....full text
DrownedinsoundI contemplated the angle to take when writing this review whilst at work. To earn my crust I work in Retail Security, an ideal job for a daydreamer. Whilst considering the legacy of Sub Pop, the record label which signed Husky, my thoughts were rudely interrupted by a radio call. A banned shoplifter was in the food hall, and needed to be ejected. Christ on a bike, the adrenaline rush jolted me into life, and I stooped over to the dairy aisle, where the shoplifter was last seen. A sense of calmness swept over me when I arrived by the milk fridge and saw that the shoplifter was not a burly brute or a scabby hepatitis riddled junkie, but a sixtysomething male with NHS specs who looked rather gaunt and frail. I informed the male that he was banned from the store and had to leave immediately, he dropped his shopping basket to the floor which contained a few ready meals and a variety of cheeses, called me a 'silly bastard' and hurriedly left the store. That was it, job done, back to the daydreams. I would say it was the highlight of the day; however that was probably chatting up the make-up girl from Superdrug later that afternoon.
So, Husky the first Australian band signed to Sub Pop. The significance of this probably matters most only to the Australians. In fact, is signing to a label significant even for a band anymore? You could make arguments for labels such as Rough Trade, Warp, Domino and XL, but as time goes on, having the endorsement and support of a respected record label, a stamp of approval if you will, matters less and less.
We know about Sub Pop, how its founders learned from Motown and SST, gave Seattle a cultural identity and more importantly a sound.Jack Endino became the Berry Gordy figure, churning out the albums, and then the label launched the career of a little band called Nirvana, who legitimized the whole project. In recent years Sub Pop was mellowed somewhat, and the artists currently signed to label such as The Shins, Fleet Foxes, Niki & The Dove and Beach House represent a less abrasive, more eclectic roster.
Husky, named after frontman Husky Gawenda (I know, how freakin’ cool is that first name) fall in line with the rest of the pack, existing in chillville. Each song on Forever So is impeccably produced, rich and full sounding, yet retaining an intimacy that recalls long summer drinking in front of a fire with your pals. They are close cousins to their label mates Fleet Foxes, albeit without the delightful vocal harmonies....full text
MusicomhThe scene: A band set up a recording studio in the back room of their singer’s house, and they accumulate a mountain of equipment, preferably analogue for the “warmth” and added authenticity points. It’s a story that’s becoming increasingly familiar these days albeit with varying amounts of spin. The house is a shack in a remote forest. The singer ate nothing but foraged roots and air. There was an invasion of bears during recording. There was a fire. Locusts. Death. Pestilence. Hardship.
None of these examples relate specifically to Husky, but it would seem that these days if you want to record an album, particularly one that hovers around the Americana genre boundaries, then you’d better have recorded it yourself and suffered considerably whilst doing so. Although there’s little sign of hardship in Husky’s story, they did at least record their album themselves.
Homecrafted songs in place, luck has smiled upon Husky and they’ve become the first Australians to sign for Sub Pop, a label that until relatively recently was synonymous with Seattle and the harder edged side of music. Of course, in recent years Sub Pop has signed the likes of Iron And Wine, Fleet Foxes and Fruit Bats, and it’s alongside such bands that Husky find themselves nestling quite comfortably.
The fantastically named Husky Gawenda and his band trade in gently strummed, occasionally arresting, acoustic folk songs. It takes something quite special to stand out amongst the countless other bands and artists armed with nothing more than a guitar, an optional beard, and melodious tales of murder and crop failure, and on Forever So, Husky just about prove that they’re gifted enough songwriters to get noticed....full text
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