The Lucksmiths - First Frost

matcd049  /  November 2008
The Lucksmiths - First Frost
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The Lucksmiths - First Frost

matcd049  /  November 2008

Over the course of 15 years and almost as many albums and international tours, Australian popstars The Lucksmiths have penned some of the most adored songs this side of the pop underground and built up a massive fanbase in the process.

Most recent studio album ‘Warmer Corners’ received considerable praise, with Pitchfork calling it “idiosyncratic but accessible, literate but unpretentious, gentle but not weak, sincere not so much in presentation as in presence”. Two singles lifted from the album — “A Hiccup in Your Happiness” and “The Chapter in Your Life Entitled San Francisco” — both received heavy rotation across the globe. The latter also found its way onto Qantas Airlines in-flight playlist in 2006 — an achievement not celebrated lightly by a band with an enduring penchant for the somewhat ridiculous and irrelevant.

More recently, 2007 saw the release of a b-sides, rarities, and live compilation entitled ‘Spring a Leak’ with an accompanying set of US tour dates. At 45 songs in length, this exhaustive double-CD was well received and hearty enough to sate even the most impoverished Lucksmiths fan whilst awaiting a new batch of songs. In reviewing the album, Time Out Chicago declared “If a band can be this good on its cast-offs, imagine what the albums are like”.

A trip to Tasmania has yielded ‘First Frost’—the finest and most dynamic Lucksmiths album to date. Camped out in the wilderness, the band was free to explore and expand the musical palette, and with all four members contributing songs, the end result is a 14-song masterpiece bound to surprise anyone who thought they had The Lucksmiths pegged as sounding too much like The Lucksmiths.

On the album, the bands’ trademark lyrical hooks shine warmer than ever. Opening cut "The Town and the Hills" sets out some of the album’s central themes, examining the distance (geographical and metaphorical) between city and country. Meanwhile, "California in Popular Song" is a sweet slice of sun-kissed pastoral pop that combines sweeping strings, a throaty low-down guitar, some gentle fingerpicking and Tali White's pensive vocal to become your new favorite Lucksmiths song.

Recent live hits, the jangly "Good Light" and the surprisingly glam-rockin' "A Sobering Thought (Just When One Was Needed)"—the latter concerning a late-night drunken escapade at a public swimming pool — both receive a fine rendering on ‘First Frost’. Elsewhere on the album, The Lucksmiths' familiar strum is traded in for brief dalliances with a disorderly fuzz pedal, a choir of misplaced mittens, and a bird that just wants to know why you got drunk. Intrigued?

  1. The Town and The Hills
  2. Good Light
  3. A Sobering Thought (Just When One Was Needed)
  4. California In Popular Song
  5. South-East Coastal Rendezvous
  6. The National Mitten Registry
  7. Day Three of Five
  8. Never and Always
  9. Lament of the Chiming Wedgebill
  10. How We Met
  11. Song of the Undersea
  12. Up With The Sun
  13. Pines
  14. Who Turned on the Lights?


Indie pop, like other scenes outside rock's traditional canon, doesn't necessarily demand consistency. With a tradition of vinyl singles, small but beloved labels, and an intense sense of community, indie pop fans tend to place value on singles and EPs as much as albums. And with a decade and a half of reliably charming singles, EPs-- and, yes, albums-- the Lucksmiths are kind of like their genre's dependable go-to; they're the Hold Steady of indie pop. You know what to expect from the Australian band's ninth album, First Frost, and as with Craig Finn & co.'s latest, Stay Positive, you also a get a few new wrinkles. Stand-up drummer Tali White sings a little bit softer now; the guitars crunch more often. But the songs-- written mostly by guitarist Marty Donald, though also by White, bassist Mark Monnone, and newer guitarist Louis Richter-- are still genial sing-alongs that bounce from languid introspection to scrappy exuberance. Covering familiar subjects like the weather, drinking, geography, and quiet melancholy, they delight with catchy tunes and understated eloquence. First Frost doesn't match the peaks of 2005's Warmer Corners or last year's 45-track Spring a Leak compilation, but it comes close. Recorded in Tasmania with Chris Townend, the album continues a gradual sonic exploration: Horns and glam-rock swagger help Donald's "A Sobering Thought (Just When One Was Needed)" clear its head, while an unexpectedly grinding guitar solo lets White's acoustic "Up With the Sun" move beyond "a time when every lunch was breakfast." Monnone's "South-East Coastal Rendezvous" comes about as close to the wavy guitarscapes of Strawberry Wine-era My Bloody Valentine as the Lucksmiths probably ever will, evocatively concluding, "Here's to who knows what" (alas, not "when"). Strings nicely adorn slower songs like Richter's opening "The Town and the City" and Donald's similarly themed "Pines". "I don't mean to suggest I'm getting older/ But the city looks better over my shoulder," goes the latter. If it sounds like the Lucksmiths that wrote happy-go-lucky songs like "Under the Rotunda" and "T-Shirt Weather" have grown up...well, they have, but their craft has matured, too. They still "drink and laugh and eat," as on Monnone's folkier, slightly drab "Day Three of Five". Only now they're left to ask themselves, "Why did you get drunk" in Donald's mournful, country-tinged duet with female vocalist Bee Rigby, "Lament of the Chiming Wedgebill". No, wait, it's the chiming wedgebill who's asking. Most admirably, First Frost finds the Lucksmiths continuing to put out quietly ambitious records that could be enjoyed by almost anybody who loves music-- not just indie pop partisans. "California in Popular Song" is the best song on the album, but it's not a difficult critic's favorite; either you'll love the trebly guitar interplay, White's tender phrasing, Donald's vivid storytelling about someone leaving for an imagined California, and delicate turns of phrase like "your eyes are wet with wine," or you'll listen to something else. Yes, I realize the poetically arranged SAT-word sing-along that ends Donald's gorgeous "The National Mitten Registry" is waaay too precious for the Hot 100. But as White sings: "Fingers crossed/ All is not lost." The Lucksmiths still drink; they haven't dried up, and it doesn't sound like they're going to crumble into dust anytime soon.   --Pitchfork
Aussie janglers add dash of bitter to their sweet indiepop. Now 15 years and 11 albums into their itinerant career, these blithely spirited Melbourne indie-pop types seem to be growing up. The T-shirt weather of early albums now feels the chill wind of winter in July, Tali White’s warm voice seems more rugged and even the tweely-titled “National Mitten Registry” is a desolate, derelict little number. But the sobriety suits them, moving them on from their punny, Flight Of The Conchords tendencies. On tracks like the lovely “Pines”, First Frost suggets The Lucksmiths are picking up the mantle of Grant McLennan.   --Uncut Magazine
The Lucksmiths have never released a record that was less than lovely. Since 1993 the Australian trio (now quartet) has been crafting thoughtful indie pop that warms both ears and hearts in equal measure. Filled with some of their best songs and most fully realized arrangements, 2005's Warmer Corners marked a high point in the band's career that would seem like a hard act to follow. Luckily, the band is up for the challenge on 2008's First Frost, and if it falls a little short of Warmer Corners, the album is still top-shelf Lucksmiths. The full arrangements (horns, strings, and loads of backing vocals) are here; the songs are a mix of tender ballads, chugging rockers, and introspective midtempo rambles; and Tali White's everyman vocals are as intimate and real as ever. This time out, the songwriting chores are split among the four members, with each of them focusing on tiny moments of heartbreak and spinning tales of poetic melancholy in a way that has become the band's trademark. Marty Donald turns in some truly memorable songs, "California in Popular Song" and "How We Met" chief among them, while new guitarist Louis Richter happily proves himself able to meet the high standards the band has established with his two contributions, "The Town and the Hills" and "Never and Always." Richter may also be responsible for the heavier guitar tones that appear throughout the album, giving tracks like "Up with the Sun" and "South-East Coastal Rendezvous" a jolt of rock energy. The female vocals (courtesy of Bee Rigby) on the country weeper "Lament of the Chiming Wedgebill" and the Hammond organ and cowbell (!) on "Who Turned Out the Lights?" also serve to expand the group's sonic template. These slight changes and surprises are nice, but what counts in the end are the songs and the voice that sings them -- both are in fine form, and First Frost is more of the Lucksmiths at their finest.   --All Music Guide
I can think of no other band that writes melodic pop songs as articulate about everyday life scenarios—cities, the weather, wasting time, interactions between friends and lovers—as the Lucksmiths, and they keep getting better at it as the years pass. What’s more, their music is getting more attractive to the ears. Each of their last three albums has represented a strengthening and filling-out of their sound. First Frost is touched by driving rock, stately folk, tender soul, and a blast of noise, even. And all the while this sounds like the Lucksmiths we know and love. Within these songs people travel, get drunk, grow together and grow apart. None of the stories are unnecessarily over-dramatic, but rather thoughtful, detailed, and recognizable. That real-life familiarity may be why their albums are so easy to listen to over and over again, to live with.   --PopMatters Best Indie Pop of 2008
Australian band The Lucksmiths seem destined to remain firmly rooted in the pop pigeon-hole marked ‘indie cult’. You’d think after 15 years ploughing such a lonely furrow, they’d be due at least a few minutes of fame’s usual predetermined quarter of an hour. But the inappropriately named Lucksmiths are still light years away from the big-time — despite a whole collection of top-drawer material. Eleventh album, First Frost, generates more of the same first-class tunes boasting lean arrangements and lush textures which have been enhanced by tight, inventive musicianship and well-drilled song-writing. Genre-wise they are hard to categorise — if anything, their sound lies somewhere between The Wedding Present and Belle and Sebastian. First Frost oozes charm throughout — with little musical gems aplenty. At times, the band veer into the old dreamy shoegazing territory of the early 1990s — tracks like the brilliant Lament of the Chiming Wedgebill are reminiscent of fellow cult band Slowdive’s finest hour, Souvlaki. Frontman Tali White’s warm understated vocals call to mind The Wedding Present’s David Gedge or Badly Drawn Boy. But the success of this new collected works lies more in the beautiful melodies, floating harmonies and the fragrant accompaniment. The tunes are also wonderfully uncluttered and unpretentious. There is no effort at all on the part of the listener — the Lucksmiths make life very easy. All you have to do is simply lie back and enjoy. First Frost also spawns two of the Lucksmiths’ best ever tracks — the bouncy, joyous pop nugget that is South-East Coastla Rendezvous and the truly wonderful Pines. The Lucksmiths will be hard pushed to better this exquisite collection. A quiet classic.   --Belfast Telegraph
First Frost opens with the first Lucksmiths song written by Louis Richter, who played guitar on the last album and has been playing with the band on tour for years now. Titled “The Town and the Hills”, it’s sung by drummer Tali White, the band’s lead vocalist no matter the songwriter (mostly Marty Donald, sometimes Mark Monnone, occasionally White). Richter wrote two of the album’s 14 songs. It’s a sign that The Lucksmiths are now officially a four-person band, though already the last album Warmer Corners benefited from his presence on guitar. With each album their already pretty much perfect songwriting gets better, and over the last three albums, counting this new one, the music has jumped forward as well, with arrangements that are more sophisticated, in a good way. And at the same time the band keeps getting punchier. First Frost overall has a sense of wistfulness to it, but plenty of the songs have moments where the band pushes forward forcefully. The last time I saw them play live I was struck by how much faster they were playing, how much they rocked, even. On album they’ve translated that into compact bursts of energy without losing the subtler touch their thoughtful songs require. It’s a confidently written and played album, plentiful with winning melodies but also instrumental parts that do well to communicate the mood of the song and album. One such surprising but natural moment comes near the album’s end on the slow-and-steady “How We Met”, where the band builds up into a noisy shimmer, emulating the radio static mentioned in a lyric. The album is filled with other less dramatic, but no less enjoyable, musical moments. ”The Town and the Hills” sets up the mood of the LP well, by setting a very specific scene (“The clouds are hanging low / about the shoulders of the hills / where the shadow kills the light”) and then introducing characters, who bring along their own anxieties and dreams. First Frost is filled with daily-life stories, serious or light, smartly written into song. These observational stories carry little truths about human relationships and experiences, but are never heavy-handed about it, rarely even trying to pin down any truths as such. ”A Sobering Thought (Just When One Was Needed)” vividly describes a drunken night out on the town with an old friend. The spunky “South-East Coastal Rendezvous” (one of a couple songs here that I’ve taken to declaring as the pop hit of the season when it comes on) also has some people meeting up after a period apart, drinking a toast to the unknown (“here’s to who knows what”). The narrator of “How We Met” inadvertently eavesdrops on his lover at a party telling the story of how they met. The especially bittersweet “California in Popular Song” has someone moving to the western US, the song’s narrator explaining to her that moving doesn’t always make things right, and that songs aren’t always true: “All those songs about California lied / the stars won’t shine tonight / it isn’t going to be alright.” The album’s characters seem to teeter-totter between worry and hopefulness, cynicism and optimism. Even a lost mitten comes to represent both, as a group-singalong breaks into the chorus “fingers crossed / all is not lost.” Entwined with that worry/hope balance are people and places – lovers separating, to uncertain end; cities quiet and still. The album’s final song, “Who Turned on the Lights?”, offers one last invigorating moment of uncertainty, in a song about both people and a city. It starts on a train, in the aftermath of a lovers’ spat. They reach a city that’s surprisingly bright, asking each other the title question in a tuneful chorus, strengthened by electric guitar and backing harmonies. It ends the album on an up note musically, and perhaps one for the album’s characters too: “I know we’re trembling now / but the lightning and rain are gonna pass…”   --Erasing Clouds
You'd think that after more than a decade of plying their wares, a band as melodically endowed as the Lucksmiths would have a bit more... well, luck... at least in terms of wider recognition. Maybe it's the watery divide; being an Aussie band, that's a lot of distance to transcend between here and there. Come to think of it, that's the only plausible reason why this starry-eyed quartet hasn't garnered their due. Purveyors of a supple, soft-spoken pop eloquence - think the Housemartins and their successors, the Beautiful South - they supply an affable sound accompanied by an instant embrace. Theirs is an idyllic view, as evidenced in such titles as "Song of the Undersea," "The Town & The Hills," "South-East Coastal Rendezvous" and "Up With the Sun," songs that in both style and substance offer a wistful view of quiet country lanes, twilight encounters and mornings of quiet reflection. The assured perspective is especially pronounced in lines like, "Listen to me this time/The city's sand and lime/And skylarks long have left its streets/Where the darkness meets," the alluring imagery betraying their poetic perspective. And while the eager, irresistible refrains of "Good Light" and the churning rhythms of "Never & Always" up the ante in terms of energy, First Frost consistently maintains its warm and radiant glow. This could well be the album that brings the Lucksmiths the good fortune they so genuinely deserve.   --Blurt Magazine
The Luckless Smiths, as some have tagged these Morrissey-influenced Aussies, have quietly gone about their business for 15 years, recording generally overlooked yet increasingly radiant albums that have made them one of their country’s most prolific and consistent group of songwriters. First Frost, their 11th studio album, picks up the baton passed by 2005’s career-crowning Warmer Corners and it maintains the band’s upward curve – this is grown-up Lucksmiths but one that still sparkles with the youthful zest that made them so appealing in the first place. It’s just now they take themselves more seriously – gone are the witty, throwaway puns and two-minute songs that occasionally seemed out of place on their Nineties albums and possibly undermined the notion that here was a band to be reckoned with. This may not read like a positive but, like Warmer Corners before it, First Frost is music to sigh to. Not in a despressing, melancholy sense – it’s more of a nostalgic, comfortable and settled sigh made evident on album opener The Town And The Hills which blends brass, strings and airy vocals. The album’s finest moments – the achingly lovely Good Light, the twee-est song title ever on the delicate The National Mitten Registry, the railway rhythm of Day Three Of Five and the Wedding Present-esque vibe of Up With The Sun – are among the best songs the Melbourne-based quartet have ever recorded. Elsewhere there are nods to country in the duet Lament Of The Chiming Wedgebill and something of a guitar surge on A Sobering Thought and Never And Always and, though songwriting credits are shared by all four members of the band, there is never a lack of cohesion. First Frost is the sound of four men growing older together, leaving behind the urban dreams of youth for gentler pursuits – but they’re not doing so gracefully. “I don’t mean to suggest I’m getting older,” sings Tali White on Pines, “But the city looks its best over my shoulder…” That should strike a chord with all who’ve followed The Lucksmiths’ journey down the years. We are, after all, in the first frost of our lives too...   --Music Week
After 15 years and 11 albums, the Lucksmiths are finally getting credit in their own country, making the inflight playlist of the national airline last year. First Frost ought to win them further Qantas endorsements too, the jangly, romantic, literate pop music (who else would credit John Steinbeck on ‘Song of the Undersea’?) being just the thing to charm even the most flight-phobic traveller. If there’s a crossroads in the town called ‘indiepop’, the Lucksmiths live right on the junction where all four lanes connect: there are clear echoes in First Frost of the lovelorn guitar thrash of the Wedding Present, the melodic chime of the Go-Betweens, the mordant romanticism of Belle & Sebastian and the wry humour of the Smiths. ‘Up With the Sun’ has all these features, a cocktail of fine melodies and slightly off centre riffs and runs, and is utterly addictive – it’s Tali White’s only writing credit but it’s a classic. The Lucksmiths’s lyrics are witty but are striking for their lack of anger or conflict; there are plenty of tales of remorseful romantic gestures but they’re all beautifully controlled; ‘The National Mitten Registry’ has the twee-est title but ends with the life-affirming statement “fingers crossed/ all is not lost”. Taking it up a notch, ‘A Sobering Thought (Just When I Needed It)’ is a seductive tale of a night spend going off the rails, all set to a tartan-wristbanded glam-rock beat. It’s a pleasure trove of sharply crafted songs, full of melodies and smart lyrics, exploding like sherbet on your tongue in a sweet jingle-jangle of indiepop sensation. This might be the record when the Lucksmiths take off.   --Sounds XP
I'd heard some horrible blasphemous rumours about this album at the end of last year, about it being all "rock", and having "guitar solos". Cuh, I say to them. Cuh. The fact that this is yet another treasure of a Lucksmiths album shouldn't be a surprise to the righteous, of course, but it's a surprise just how good it is. Apparently, it's a bit of concept album. Run to the hills! Then come back again. Because this album is all about the countryside vs the city. And not in "lets go and hunt some little foxes way!", I hope you understand. And it looks from the sleeve like a log cabin the middle of nowhere has triumphed. Beautiful packaging leads to beautiful songs. "Good Light" might be the sound of Lucksmiths yore, but so what? If it ain't fixed carry on using it anyway, as the old saying goes. The song features some wonderful self-pitying lyrics, and we all need to wallow sometimes, don't we? "California Popular Song" seems again to champion the countryside - or at least warns against the lure of the big city, with the almost ridiculously sad lyric: "Your eyes are bright with wine/And, oh, so are mine." I think I can honestly say that I've never really 'connected' with many Lucksmiths lyrics before... until now. I've usually liked their songs for their jangly effervescence, or the fact that they're just the sort of quaint stuff that makes a 30-something feel at ease with singing at the top of his voice in a nightclub. But on First Frost nearly every song screams: "This is you, you lummox!" And isn't that a wonderful thing when you think that sort of thing left you when you were 15 and listening to Meat is Murder in a dark room with only a candle for company? And just when I think I've found the song that saved my life - in this case the National Mitten Registry - it turns out it's been written from the perspective of the woolly hand garment. Denied! But take this immeasurably great album however you want to. It's going to get me to work and back again through the remaining winter months. Take that, mitten!   --A Layer of Chips
Surely the only band of this vintage still never to have released a sub-par album, the Lucksmiths are happily unafraid to keep risking this reputation (and occasionally, to push the envelope: our favourite tracks here, the misty, swept-with-longing "How We Met" and the shambling, Weddoes-like "Up With The Sun", both see subtle - but rewarding - variations to their template sound).   --In Love With These Times (Albums of the Year)
Less luck than smith, but less trade than art, First Frost marks another strong entry into an under-heralded band’s catalog. The Lucksmiths create indie-pop that’s at once comfortable and unpredictable, relaxed in song structure and sound, but driven by captivating lyrics. This newest album works well in providing not stories, but snippets, often moments of conversation with a few gaps left to fill in. Without wasting a track, the band develops a cohesive album through recurrent themes and images, as well as a developing mood complete with closing fulfillment. As light as the album sounds sonically (yes, it’s jangle from Australia), the lyrics focus on rain. Even so, the songs never turn past gray (even when, as in “South-East Coastal Rendezvous”, “the wet starts to win"), bringing us into an area of forecasted rain and mild anxiety, rather than actual drizzle. The nervousness stems not from senseless fear, but from an awareness of past events ("the weight of shadow cast / By pieces of the past") and human tendencies that cause centers not to hold, as captured in emotional affairs, a tendency toward drink, etc. “A Sobering Thought (Just When One Was Needed)” provides an example of what goes wrong, and how beautiful that moment can be. With “puddles on the floor” juxtaposed with the day’s burgeoning sunlight, the narrator launches into his confession to his lover. He meets up with an old friend, and an ostensibly platonic catching-up turns into a late night dip at the swimming pool. The wetness here, evidentiary in its puddling, is not due to the always coming rain, but from the individual choice in the present. The Lucksmiths make it lovely and nearly defensible. The title provides the painful denouement: the end comes not from any realization of wrongdoing, but from the sobering thought of potential discovery. Our man drips home. While he does return, the usual causes of things falling apart merge with the narrators’ desires to flee. Both growing interpersonal distance and increasing anxiety (sometimes ill-founded) manifest themselves in an urge toward flight. “Never and Always” provides some bad advice: “It never rains on the highway”. The Wilco-alluding “California in Popular Song” puts the division between land and sea: “If those dark clouds reach to the empty beach / Well at least the coast is clear”. The singers of “First Frost”, whether hurt or merely anticipating hurt, seek refuge in physical distance rather than emotional repair. If they weren’t drawn so remarkably close to real, they could tend toward the pathetic. Instead, they quickly develop as full characters (see the oscillation and conflict of “Never and Always"). It’s not cowardice so much as a physical expression (geographically, or even topographically) of a persistent condition. The Lucksmiths don’t leave their listeners in this state of people always going and events always pending. If they had, they’d have created a neurotic, lovely enough work, but one too enmeshed in its own shortcomings to be both as heartwarming and heartbreaking as it is. The opening track “The Town and Hills” provides the question that each character (and each listener) should face: “When was the last time you sang / Along with the bells as they rang?” The question stays away from matters of context. The feeling here—whether happiness, freedom, or escape—comes not from external situations (like rain), but from internal decisions (like jumping into a pool, only antithetically). Hope hides throughout the album, usually peeking out in phrases like “I hope someday you’ll see me / Even briefly / In a good light”. In one of the more pleasing tracks, “The National Mitten Registry”, we find encouragement and strength from a personified mitten. The whole track’s a playful poem in which, without the title, you might believe the narrator to even be a person ("threadbare and falling apart” or “Forgotten, forlorn / Unclaimed and uncared for"). Then, in a cheerful play on words, the mitten sets an example by calmly and simply stating, “Fingers crossed / All is not lost”. If a mitten can cross its fingers, then we should take comfort. The tide (for we’re thoroughly wet now, whether the rain’s hit us or not) turns fully on “Up with the Sun”. If the album has largely been about people about to go in motion but not quite gone and rain always arriving but never arrived, we suddenly get sticky and stuck on the album’s finest couplet: “New sun behind me, like syrup on my skin / Honey, remind me where it is we’ve been” (the wordplay is thoroughly delicious). The narrator takes stock, recognizing his own “shame and ... shackles” and breaking from his mental entrapment. In doing so, the dark clouds falter, and he sings, “Oh, but then one morning as the clubs were closing / Dawn stuck her nose in / And over I was won”. “Who Turned on the Lights?” closes the album with unsentimental opportunity, offering apology and care. The weather suppresses light, but “there’s power in the city tonight”. Our narrator cautions not against the rain, but against the fear of it, embracing the trembling and explaining that “the lightning and rain are gonna pass / And leave these streets looking so pretty in a while / After all, the wet look is back in style”. Not only the people, but also the wetness is redeemed, changing the convicting puddle into something more. Here, the narrator exchanges the weather in its native unpredictability for “Bernini’s fountain”, a constructed work and a choosing of beauty. The moment says farewell to umbrella arms in favor of the light of a Roman holiday.   --Pop Matters
Australian Smiths fans who ditched their Melbourne hometown to record in the Tasmanian bush, The Lucksmiths took away more than memories when they returned to the city. The rustic surroundings rubbed off on their 10th (or eighth; it’s complicated) proper album, which adds a bucolic touch that many would kill for.   --Q Magazine
The Lucksmiths have been one of my favorite bands for many, many years. Ever since I first heard 1997's A Good Kind Of Nervous, I've been infatuated with their folky goodness. They've made some truly stellar albums and EPs throughout their 15 year career, and with that being said, their new album, First Frost, may be the best album they've ever made. Songwriting-wise, the Lucksmiths always capture their personality -- the music is fun, it's clever, it's catchy, it's beautiful. But arranging wise, sonically speaking, their latest offering is far and above what they've done in the past. Part of it is due to their progression from acoustic to electric; it's not that they've dropped acoustic guitars, but their sound is definitely more electric this time around, and it suits them well. Never before have I heard a song from them with such beautiful feedback laced around their always captivating songwriting, so powerful that I smile. Listen to "How We Met", below, and you will understand. The Lucksmiths have always held a place in my heart, but with First Frost, they've never been better. If you haven't been captivated by them yet, now is the time.   --Under The Rotunda
La cada vez más necesaria catalogación o adscripción de todo artista a una etiqueta o estilo hace que en ocasiones, muchas más de las deseables, metamos a un grupo en el saco equivocado, o peor aún, limitemos el posible descubrimiento de su música a otros por esa absurda pero útil manía de encasillar todo lo que está a nuestro alcance. The Lucksmiths, recién recuperados para la música gracias a su nuevo trabajo largo, son el perfecto ejemplo de lo que estamos hablando. Estos australianos de permanente espíritu juvenil llevan con nosotros quince años representando como ningún otro grupo el ideal de lo que el Indie Pop debiera significar. Hay quién dirá que tres lustros son demasiados para una banda de Indie Pop, y aunque en realidad esos años no son tantos ya que la banda se dio a conocer en 1997 gracias a A Good Kind Of Nervous, lo cierto es que la música de The Lucksmiths sigue poseyendo, cuando no acrecentando, la gracia y frescura de aquella primordial obra que supuso el primer reconocimiento internacional a su música en los ambientes afines al pop independiente. Más de diez años después seguimos contamos cada novedad del cuarteto como pieza a atesorar y guardar con mimo, sin embargo el tiempo nos ha ido demostrando que aquel minúsculo soplo de aire fresco de años atrás ha ido creciendo con los años, hasta convertirse hoy día en una de las bandas más interesantes del panorama internacional. Lejos queda el tiempo en el que la música de The Lucksmiths debió salir de esa pequeña burbuja indie, sin embargo muchos hemos seguido mirando a la banda como a ese grupo de amigos que se reunieron un buen día para divertirse componiendo algunas canciones. Esos amigos han ido cumpliendo años, superando hace mucho a aquel grupo de Indie Pop que fueron, para pasar a convertirse en avezados compositores de canciones que algunos no dudarían en calificar en clásicos de este nuevo siglo. Por esta misma razón, por ese nuevo estatus que el grupo merece, es por lo que los tres años pasados desde su exitoso Warmer Corners se nos antojan excesivos. The Lucksmiths crearon su mejor obra, alcanzaron sus mayores cotas de reconocimiento protagonizando largas giras, para después dejar de dar señales de vida centrándose únicamente en la publicación del doble recopilatorio Spring A Leak. Probablemente el mejor disco del pasado año, si no se hubiera tratado de un álbum de canciones ya conocidas (muchas tan solo por unos pocos) y reunidas para la ocasión bajo un envoltorio de lujo por Matinée Recordings. Warmer Corners no supuso un cambio de rumbo en la carrera del grupo, tan solo una variación sobre la formula desarrollada en aquel A Good Kind Of Nervous, continuada después en otros discos excelentes, como Why That Doesn’t Surprise Me?, pero frente a éstos el hasta hace poco último Lp de los australianos hacía acopio de de valor para lanzarse a hacia canciones de todo más vital, conteniendo menos baladas de las acostumbradas en cualquier trabajo del grupo, quizás esta fuera parte del secreto del unánime éxito de Warmer Corners, y es por ello que First Frost se nos antojaba la perfecta continuación de aquel mayor ímpetu que descubrimos en nuestro anterior acercamiento a The Lucksmiths, craso error por nuestra parte el de dar por supuestas ciertas cosas. First Frost llega a nuestras manos pareciendo anunciar con su diseño (Matinée vuelve a lucirse) cierto tono sombrío, con esos árboles perdidos en la niebla invitando a pensar en tristes historias. Por fortuna en el interior de la carpeta nos encontramos al grupo posando bajo un tímido sol en el interior de la frondosidad de un bosque, el repaso al libreto que acompaña a este trabajo va despejando nuestras dudas. Tali White & cía aparecen mientras ejecutan diversas actividades en algún lugar perdido de Tasmania, ubicación escogida para la grabación de su noveno trabajo de estudio, y probablemente el diseño del disco no se haya debido más que a los paseos del grupo mientras culminaban la grabación de este nuevo Lp. Así nos disponemos a comenzar la escucha de esta nueva colección de canciones esperando encontrarnos con un puñado de pildorazos de Pop brillante al estilo de Sunlight In A Jar, sin embargo el primer repaso a las catorce canciones de este largo álbum nos dejan descolocados en un primer momento. First Frost, título bastante apropiado y acorde con la sensación su inicial escucha puede producir en más de uno, sobre todo para el recién llegado que se encontrará con unos Lucksmiths algo cambiados, más relajados, en ocasiones hasta con muestras de cierta seriedad. Frente a esto basta rascar un poco bajo esa delgada capa de hielo para comprobar que las virtudes de su música permanecen intactas, inalteradas y ajenas al paso del tiempo, pero es éste mismo el que probablemente obliga a una nueva vuelta de tuerca, porque este trabajo nos enseña cómo The Lucksmiths empiezan a madurar, creando en esta ocasión canciones que quizás no entran tan a la primera como en el pasado, pero que van ganando terreno con el paso del tiempo y las escuchas hasta convertirse en fieles aliadas y compañeras de este frío Otoño. The Town & The Hills nos da la bienvenida en forma de uno de esos medios tiempos especialidad de la banda, que en combinación con una letra por encima de la media acostumbrada en el estilo, nos introduce de manera tímida pero firme poniéndonos en situación. Good Light se empeña en demostrar lo fácil que todavía les resulta dar con la típica canción que induce al tarareo instantáneo, para a continuación aprovisionarse de guiños a otros estilos en el continuo crescendo de A Sobering Thought (Just When One Was Needed), que termina obligándonos a dar la razón a la nota promocional que anuncia este corte como de reminiscencias rockeras, del glam en concreto. Por fortuna California In Popular Song viene a calmar nuestros nervios después de semejante desmelene ofreciéndonos uno de los momentos más íntimos y dulces de todo First Frost, así como pieza a destacar, cuando no favorita de toda la colección aquí presentada, nosotros nos rendimos por completo a ella. Aunque puestos a alzar la bandera blanca hemos de dar un salto hacia la parte final del disco para fijar nuestra atención en Song Of The Undersea y Up With The Sun, la primera adaptación de La Perla, la novela de John Steinbeck. Ambas en cualquier caso son muestras rotundas de lo que hemos salido ganando con un trabajo como First Frost, Song Of The Undersea enamora por su letra, su ritmo juguetón y una guitarra que se clava en nuestra mente, Up With The Sun por esa desacostumbrada guitarra fuzz que llega a intentar marcarse un solo y termina dominando por completo el recuerdo que queda de la canción. Pero hay mucho más aquí, Pines es otro medio tiempo sentimental que da mucho más juego de lo que su timidez muestra, sumando pequeños detalles conforme se desarrolla. Who Turned On The Lights? es puro Lucksmiths, y con el aire campero del que le dota el Hammond cumple cerrando el disco, pero para aires camperos, o más bien totalmente country, vayamos al dueto de Lament Of The Chiming Wedgebill, rematada perfectamente por la estupenda voz de Bec Rigby. How We Met es de difícil escucha, con un final ruidoso que nos hace pensar en esa madurez que aquí quiere revestir algunos temas y a la que en esta ocasión nos resistimos. Pero puestos a destacar las múltiples caras del disco estamos a punto de pasar por alto algunos cortes que pueden entrar a formar parte del repertorio clásico de la banda, en este caso hablamos de South-East Coastal Rendezvous y especialmente Never & Always, hits instantáneos y previsibles singles imaginarios a extraer del disco. Restándonos todavía un par de temas que no por omitidos hasta ahora afean la calificación global de este trabajo; Day Three Of Five, redonda, y The National Mitten Registry, con los mejores coros de todo el disco. The Lucksmiths han vuelto a dar en la diana, como aludíamos al hablar de su primera escucha, no es el trabajo más inmediato de la banda, pero probablemente sí el más rico y trabajado de cuantos recordamos, con una continua preocupación por tomar prestado de aquí y allá para preparar un sonido protagonista de un disco con el que es improbable llegar a aburrirse durante las escuchas que la mayoría de los seguidores de la banda le dispensarán.   --360º de Separación