The Lucksmiths - Warmer Corners

matcd039  /  April 2005
The Lucksmiths - Warmer Corners
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The Lucksmiths - Warmer Corners

matcd039  /  April 2005

Seventh studio album from Australia's hardest-working band and follow-up to the excellent 'Naturaliste' album from 2003 is, dare we say it, the best Lucksmiths release yet! As always, there are lots of guitars, some soothing basslines, and a singing drummer who's far better than Phil Collins, but this time there's also a horn section having a party, some fiery organs, a string section who dig Phil Spector, and a lazy pedal steel. 'A Hiccup in Your Happiness' kicks the album off with an uplifting nod of reassurance to a girl named Louise. Coincidentally, this song also marks the recorded debut for new Lucksmiths guitarist Louis Richter. It's a dancefloor sizzler! As well as the aforementioned strings and horns, the song features some seriously funky guitar and a bassline possibly borrowed from Orange Juice. From there, the floor just keeps rumbling with 'The Music Next Door' and its pleasantly off-kilter guitar riff. By now it's evident Marty Donald's turns-of-phrase seem to have ripened with age, while Tali White's vocals are as warm as ever. As with the last few albums, producer Craig Pilkington was put to work on string and brass arrangements, and he's done some seriously wonderful things on 'Warmer Corners'. Notably, the string section on first single 'The Chapter in Your Life Entitled San Francisco' drops the song off effortlessly at the bridge (and the monumental first ever use of wah-wah). Later, the fruits of bassist Mark Monnone's relocation to Tasmania are on display, namely in the hobo lament 'I Don't Want to Walk Around Alone No More' which meanders along gently and runs head first into 'The Fog of Trujillo'. The former features superb whistling and beautiful acoustic guitar, while the latter, a sort of paean to a daydream, invites the horns back for another sangria and a rockin' party again ensues. As if that weren't enough, the album features seven more hits including an earnest Rickenbacker jangler called 'Sunlight In A Jar' and the tale of a Kansas City barbecue called 'Fiction' that builds to a zydeco wigout! We kid you not. So, 'Warmer Corners': everything you've always wanted in a Lucksmiths album and more.

  1. A Hiccup in Your Happiness
  2. The Music Next Door
  3. Great Lengths
  4. Now I'm Even Further Away
  5. The Chapter in Your Life Entitled San Francisco
  6. Sunlight in a Jar
  7. If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now
  8. Young and Dumb
  9. Putting It Off and Putting It Off
  10. I Don't Want to Walk Around Alone No More
  11. The Fog of Trujillo
  12. Fiction


You would think that by their seventh album, Australian pop/rock giants the Lucksmiths would have run clear out of the clever, elliptical lyrics and catchy melodies that have been intoxicating listeners since their debut in 1993...not so. Even front man Tali White's side project, the Guild League, who released records in 2002 and 2004 couldn't deplete the endless cache of near-perfect pop songs just waiting to be put to tape/hard drive in anticipation of the aptly titled Warmer Corners. Like 2003's Naturaliste, White, guitarists Marty Donald and Louis Richter and bass player Mark Monnone have crafted another shimmering collection of road-trips put to music that balance wistful romanticism with mischievous grins, resulting in a record that manages to introduce just enough spice without ruining a reliable dish that some would deem perfect just the way it is. Producer Craig Pilkington's melodic brass and string arrangements are more prevalent this time around, swaying in and out of standout cuts like "A Hiccup in Your Happiness" and the Motown-infused "Now I'm Further Away." Twilight atmosphere may reign supreme on "folkier" tracks like--"If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now," with its weepy pedal steel set against the lyric "Let's just drive until we've found somewhere there are more headstones in the cemetery than houses in the town" is imagery that you could eat--but whimsy is never far away--the whistling solo in "I Don't Want To Walk Around Alone No More" is both campy and heartbreaking. Warmer Corners is like most Lucksmiths' records; it's meant to be swallowed whole, and in an age of singles with albums attached to them, it's both refreshing and nostalgic at the same time.   --All Music Guide
"Written down here, gentle reader, it seems too good to be true": So begins the last and most ambitious track, "Fiction", on the Lucksmiths' eighth album, Warmer Corners. So too is this long-running Australian trio's brand of guitar-pop: idiosyncratic but accessible, literate but unpretentious, gentle but not weak, sincere not so much in presentation (cf. Springsteen, Bruce; Confessional, Dashboard) as in presence (cf. Richman, Jonathan; Comedy, Divine). "Only connect," E.M. Forster-- who was twee if Belle & Sebastian ever were-- once wrote. As the epigraph for his 1910 novel, Howard's End, these words described urban-- "creeping London"-- intersecting with rural, heart coming into harmony with mind. Warmer Corners is an album of and about such connections, where they meet, how they fall apart, and how they become art. Known for supple wordplay, on this outing guitarist and primary songwriter Marty Donald opens up his diction and closes his rhyming dictionary. Don't worry, he's still flush with inspired lines like "you kept your distance and me guessing, finally acquiescing" on "Great Lengths", about a girl playing hard to get who gets hardily gotten. But "The Music Next Door" merely rhymes "door" with "more" with "a song I've heard a hundred times before," which all makes sense even if you miss the subtle wink. Then there's its Chekhovian storyline and its ambiguous non-resolution. You'll get it, O.C. kids will think they get it, and everybody's happy until concert tickets sell out. Look, over there, isn't that Ben Gibbard? [yoink] Ahem. Warmer Corners also broadens the emotional base of its predecessor, 2003's excellent and underrated Naturaliste. That album allowed the regret that had simmered stoically since at least as early as 1999's Staring at the Sky to reach full boil. "How did they come to this?" vocalist/drummer Tali White wondered dolefully. The same sorrow clouds Warmer Corners, but beneath exultant arrangements propelled by guest Lucksmith Louis Richter's Rubber Soul guitar leads along with horns, strings, organ and pedal steel. The happy-lyrics-with-sad-music shtick has been done often, but rarely so well since the Lucksmiths' namesakes. White's "Sunlight in a Jar" provides a shy respite of sheer joy. Though most previous Lucksmiths songs loll charmingly within the Aussie countryside, 1997 throwaway "Wyoming" excepted, Warmer Corners acknowledges the band's extensive U.S. touring. Lead single "The Chapter in Your Life Entitled San Francisco" neatly juxtaposes both locales, with winter rolling out in Fog City as summer slowly passes Down Under. The song's soaring choruses and downcast gaze thrill me even more than when I first reviewed them. On the winningly meta "Fiction", White sings longingly of "a girl from Kansas City" in his usual rich, Morrissey-esque phrasing. Other songs take place unmistakably in Australia or bassist Mark Monnone's new home of Tasmania. The Lucksmiths never relinquish their distinctive identity, merely expand it. Rating: 8.3   --Pitchfork
I've said it before, and I'll say it a thousand times more: The Lucksmiths have a unique mastery of the art of writing a song. Their grasp on melody, on hooks, on details, on making a song feel sad and beautiful and optimistic at the same time, is unmatched. And that's not even getting into their lyrics. Mostly written by guitarist Marty Donald, and mostly sung by drummer Tali White, their lyrics display a grasp on language that's uncommon in pop music, while perfectly capturing emotions anyone alive knows well. On Warmer Corners, the latest Lucksmiths album, those emotions are mostly the loneliness, nostalgia, confusion that come after a relationship falls apart. The things we do to forget people, the things that make us remember, the things we think we should have said or not said. The Lucksmiths' last album, Naturaliste felt especially emotion-charged; they achieved that mostly by slowing their music down, filling out the sound of the songs with more strings and other instruments, and by writing lyrics that were especially open-hearted, and a bit less reliant on clever wordings. On Warmer Corners they're doing all of these things again, but with one key difference: they're picking up the pace. These songs generally have the fun, bouncy feeling of the Lucksmiths' most classic summer anthems, yet they also have the richer atmosphere and heightened emotions of Naturaliste. In other words, it's the best of all worlds, perhaps their most satisfying album yet. With a fourth member, guitarist/organist Louis Richter, joining the core trio of Donald, White and bassist Mark Monnone, and a handful of other musicians helping with trumpet, violin, saxophone, cello, pedal steel, and other instruments, Warmer Corners has a full sound that complements the emotional impact of the songs. This shines through on brilliant ballads like "If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now", an instant classic, but also on more upbeat numbers like the great opener "A Hiccup in Your Happiness." Another of the album's many gems is the first single, "The Chapter in Your Life Entitled San Francisco". It's catchy and filled with yearning, with lush strings perfectly meshing with soulful guitar and impassioned words which inquire about whether a loved one is coming back or has moved on to a new chapter of her life. Before Warmer Corners the band released a CD EP with that song, Warmer Corners's snappy "Young and Dumb," the sad and pretty B-side "The Winter Proper" and a fine cover of The Bee Gees' classic "I Started a Joke." The Philadelphia Inquirer recently ran an article on "literary rock" which highlighted the Decemberists, the Mountain Goats and a few others as particularly literary bands. By 'literary' they mostly meant 'they read books and reference them in their songs'… but if you're really looking for a band whose music carries the weight and depth of a good novel or short story, while still offering all the simple pleasures a pop song should (you can hum it, carry it around in your head, sing it badly at karaoke nights), look to the Lucksmiths. Their Warmer Corners offers everything I would want in an album, which is why I plan to play it again and again and again and again…until their next one comes out.   --Erasing Clouds
With a proliferation of strings and horns causing several songs to swell into ‘60s-style pocket symphonies, Warmer Corners only confirms the Belle and Sebastian comparisons this Australian band has endured throughout its seven-album career. But there’s plenty of room in the world for jangly, lilting love songs, and all three of the Lucksmiths’ writers, particularly guitarist Marty Donald, craft better songs (wittier, wordier, and more memorable) than anyone in B&S save Stuart Murdoch. After the soft melancholy of 2003’s Naturaliste, the Lucksmiths return to the jaunty, upbeat fare of earlier efforts. But Warmer Corners is a bit less breathless, less dense with puns and jokes. Still, Donald can’t resist a delectable turn of phrase such as “You wished me all the best from the nonspecific Northwest” on the strummy “The Chapter In Your Life Entitled San Francisco.” Although the Lucksmiths write songs for English majors—sometimes, as with “Fiction,” they’re about English majors—they know clever words can’t replace heartfelt emotions.   --Magnet Magazine
It’s hardly ever a liability to be charming. If you happen to be dashing and can sing, that’s a definite plus. The Lucksmiths have it all. Inhabiting a pitch somewhere between Beulah and Belle & Sebastian, the Australian band’s seventh album swells with trumpet, strings and singer Tali White’s sunshine-and-strawberry-wine vocals. Ringing guitars are the thing on “The Music Next Door” and “Sunlight In A Jar,” while “The Chapter In Your Life Entitled San Francisco” takes a walk down the back country lane of shimmery nostalgia. Of course, that’s what these lads always do. The difference on Warmer Corners is that the band stretches out to encompass wayfaring laments and a zydeco rave-up. If you’re in the mood for fetching pop that’s ever so twee, rev up the Vespa and seek this one out.   --Rockpile Magazine
Now, I love the Lucksmiths and have done for more years than I care to remember. There is no Lucksmiths record I would not wholeheartedly recommend you buy without a moment’s hesitation, so why have I not written at length about this record? It’s been out for months. It’s been out for so long it’s probably Old News and sadly there’s nothing so unfashionable in the world of Pop as Old News. This is a shame. I’ve always thought so, regardless of the fact that in the past I’ve been as guilty as anyone of casting disapproving glances at Johnny-come-lately’s as they appropriate what I once treasured so unguardedly closely, turning it into The Next Big Thing, with all the horrors that entails. But today I don’t care in the slightest. Today all I care about is that I’ve neglected this record enormously and that when I should have been singing its praises from the peaks of moorland Tors or crumbling city centre ruins I was instead gazing emptily into the middle distance, asleep in idle thoughts of moments that were never going to happen in a million years. I’ll never wake to that sunrise; never stroll under that rose arbor; never kiss those lips that once woke me startled from an early morning dream. The beauty of it all being that Warmer Corners is the soundtrack to all of those moments and more; is the soundtrack to suburban delrium, to educated weariness and lazy afternoons in front of the telly. The Lucksmiths make me happy like old-time movies; which is to say that they make me forlornly happy-sad and blissfully close to tears. The Lucksmiths are a perfect antidote to preening Pop, overly intellectualised conceptual folk, the emotionally barren ‘avant-garde’ and self-aggrandising (and self-perpetuating) Rock tedium, which of course is the reason they are not household names, are not all over our TV screens and grinning/gurning from the cover of the NME. I guess that literate melodic Pop is just not the thing for the masses, and as I’ve said in the past, no-one does great literate melodic Pop as effortlessly as The Lucksmiths.   --Tangents
My personal philosophy provides infinite room for well-written, clever indie pop. From AC Newman to The Shins, a cheerful guitar-pop song with a good turn of phrase never gets old. Enter native Australians The Lucksmiths, a band that takes all the right turns and strums all the right chords. Eight albums into their career, The Lucksmiths haven’t yet felt the need to venture into as-yet uncharted experimental territory; nay, the cheery Aussies are forever content to simply transcribe loving witticisms into song over a medley of strumming guitars, tambourine-heavy percussion, and subtle bass tones. “A Hiccup in Your Happiness” starts the album off in fine form. Soft and unassuming as the band itself, the beginning of the song slips seamlessly from the silence that precedes it as if hesitant to disturb the listener. Horns drop in on the heels of the strumming, all led by hi-hats that fall in all the right places. The lyrics are vintage Lucksmiths, positive and uplifting in a straight-forward, down-to-earth way: “And it hurts even more than you thought / and it feels like forever just now / but one day you’ll look back on this / as a hiccup in your happiness.” “The Music Next Door” follows; a sunny guitar lick does its trapeze act over the secure netting of the omnipresent strumming while Marty Donald intones, “I saw the spring become the summer / as the spring is wont to do / and I began to find the boredom almost beautiful.” “Great Lengths” is perfect in its simplicity; there is not an innovative component to be found in the song, yet somehow it’s more stunning for its complacency. “Now I’m Even Further Away” ups the pace a beat with a pounding drumbeat, softened by Donald’s warm vocals. But perhaps the best song on the album is “Fiction.” Acoustic strumming (of course) slithers over brushed drums and a rolling, seemingly subconscious bass as an accordion drones somewhere in the distance. “Fiction” is effective for its excellent songwriting and remarkable for its slight differences from the other songs: it’s a bit more ambitious without disrupting the accessibility of the rest of the album. When the violins cut in later and the pace is quickened, every little guitar lick, every drum fill, every clever vocal quip reaches its full realization. The album culminates with the ideal capstone: an ascending guitar slide that makes perfect sense of everything the listener has heard. Because the songs on Warmer Corners lend themselves to cute little blurbs, I could continue ad infinitum – or at least until I ran out of songs to describe. The consistency of Warmer Corners is, in the end, its most gratifying asset. The album lends itself to being played in full, preferably listened to on a hammock with a cold ice tea on a warm summer’s day. The easy, carefree atmosphere is extremely effective; the songs’ warmth of proximity makes each better than it would be if heard alone, resulting in an album that somehow transcends its simplicity and becomes something of remarkable beauty. Pick of the Week.   --Delusions of Adequacy
Then there's the Lucksmiths. "Warmer Corners" is the approx. zillionth example of their consummate mastery of non-corporate pop, more intelligent and more melodic than anything being foisted on meaningful percentages of the population by radio or record labels. People that think that products from the global hit factory economy, from Scott Storch to Stargate, are necessarily the pinnacle of modern pop need to listen (or, rather, be forced to listen) to the Lucksmiths, not least because they would implode messily on the realisation that there are even in this day and age fantastically erudite and charming international genii merrily kicking sand in the face of the notion that your second studio album, let alone your eighth, should be anything other than fresh and welcoming. "Sunlight In A Jar" is the sprightly sound of the spring in your step on the sweetest summer day, "Putting It Off and Putting It Off" a pristine example of their perky pick-me-up pomp, and the opening, brass-accompanied "A Hiccup In Your Happiness" probably what prompted all that alliteration. The recent single, "The Chapter In Your Life Called San Francisco" brilliantly sets out the no. 1 theme of Lucksmiths songs, distance: in both place, and time, as it sensitively uncovers the uncertainties and paranoia of the long-distance relationship. But my favourite, right now, is "The Music Next Door", simply for the way that it unfolds over four minutes of tugging emotions (none of your flat joyless indie-pop boy-meets-girl girl-leaves-boy woe-is-boy narrative) before tumbling breathlessly into the most memorable, hummable single melody line of the whole album and lifting the listener several miles into the soggy ether.   --Kisschase
"Warmer Corners is very much the sound of The Lucksmiths on their seventh studio album. But far from this being a caveat, we find the pop icons arguably at the top of their game. While side-stepping the youthful immediacy of albums past, this is a record that rewards from the first moment but truly ingratiates itself after repeated liaisons. ‘A Hiccup In Your Happiness’ is the perfect introduction, mixing their scalpel-sharp observations in melody with their ever more refined approach to lyrical imagery. In many respects, this is their most lyric-heavy effort to date, with the trio turning their attention to narrative and the creation of believable, affectionate characters. Despite, or perhaps because of this new tack, we are treated to The Lucksmiths having some of the best times of their career. Indeed, ‘Great Lengths’ and ‘Sunlight In A Jar’ are two of the band’s finest moments, perfect arguments for the continued relevance and power of one of Australia’s favourites. Warmer Corners is an album that’s concurrently vibrant, restrained, mature and brimming with zeal. In short, it’s everything we could have hoped for. "   --Time Off Magazine
When I came back from college and wanted to find a summer job, I tried to look my best. A haircut, new shirt and some nice shoes, all just to make it look like I was an upstanding member of society. Now why would I bring this up in a Lucksmiths' write-up? The answer is simple - first impressions are important. "But Matt," you're saying to yourself. "This is the seventh album by a seasoned band!" But as I know, and the Lucksmiths apparently know, first impressions can come at any time. While I was familiar with these lads from Australia through assorted singles and random downloads, nothing had prepared me for the wonder that is Warmer Corners. You'd think that after eight highly-praised albums, the Lucksmiths would be content to simply become a parody of themselves. Rather, it seems that they're still writing and recording with the energy of a band that's struggling to get known. I suppose that fans like myself, ones yet to be completely won over, are the reason that the Lucksmiths work tirelessly to perfect an album. They know that each album isn't just an opportunity to make money off a handful of songs; it's a chance for that first impression all over again. Keeping with my theme of first impressions, I'd be a fool not to mention the first line of the album - "The start is the hardest part, to step inside and announce a newly broken heart." A Hiccup in Your Happiness is the perfect opener for this nearly perfect album. Horns, strings and beautiful vocals join together with some of the best lyrics that have appeared on any album this year. The combination of a beautiful message wrapped in a coating of well thought out arrangements is almost too much. The rest of the album rarely falls from the musical high set by the opening song. Tracks like The Chapter In Your Life Entitled San Francisco and Sunlight in a Jar keep alive that elated feeling that permeated your body after hearing the first seconds of the record. But it isn't just the music that strikes a chord with me (forgive the pun? -M). The lyrics on this album never fall short of amazing. The Music Next Door could easily be an entire hear-breaking novel condensed into the span of a few minutes. It's this combination of insightful lyrics and fun instrumentation that makes it seem like the Lucksmiths are still killing themselves to win our affection. Apparently no one told them that they've already won over our hearts (as well as our headphones).   --You Ain't No Picasso
This Australian band just keeps getting better. Their seventh studio album is stuffed with smart, beautifully crafted pop songs fleshed out with a variety of instrumentation including horns, strings, keyboards and pedal steel. The band’s gentle, low-key sound allows them to sneak up on you with some potent melodies and memorable lyrics, recalling bands like the Go-Betweens and other purveyors of literate, understated pop.   --KEXP Radio