The Lucksmiths - Cartography For Beginners

matcd068  /  December 2013
The Lucksmiths - Cartography For Beginners
dbl cd   $12.00

digital   $10.00

The Lucksmiths - Cartography For Beginners

matcd068  /  December 2013

Having started out as high school friends in a bayside suburb of Melbourne, Australia, the Lucksmiths trio were officially set on foot in 1993 and made short work of winning the hearts and livers of student share-houses the city over. Sixteen years and countless albums, world tours and one extra member later, the band called it a day. By this time, their reputation as one of the most influential indiepop acts of the past decade was assured.

With many Lucksmiths albums now long out of print, fans old and new can play catch-up with the new double-CD collection ‘Cartography For Beginners’ which traces the band's history from their legendary ‘First Tape’ through the final strains of their last posthumously-released single 'Get-To-Bed Birds.'

Featuring live favourites 'Under the Rotunda,' 'T-Shirt Weather' and 'Sunlight in a Jar' (and with the entire tracklist chosen by the band members themselves, of course!), ‘Cartography For Beginners’ is the final word in Lucksmiths mix tapes—the perfect jangly travel companion, the ideal soundtrack to a first kiss (in the rain), and certainly the mantle ornament of choice for any inner city share-house.

Available in a handsome six panel matte finish eco-wallet with vintage photographs and liner notes by Australian labelmate and frequent touring companion Darren Hanlon.

  1. Cat In Sunshine
  2. Weatherboard
  3. Tree
  4. Jewel Thieves
  5. Shine On Me
  6. Macintyre
  7. Frisbee
  8. Caravanna
  9. Under The Rotunda
  10. Guess How Much I Love You
  11. Smokers In Love
  12. The Golden Age Of Aviation
  13. Untidy Towns
  14. The Art Of Cooking For Two
  15. Southernmost
  16. A Downside To The Upstairs
  17. The Cassingle Revival
  18. T-Shirt Weather
  19. Synchronised Sinking
  20. The Great Dividing Range
  21. Self-Preservation
  22. The Year Of Driving Languorously
  23. Camera-Shy
  24. Take This Lying Down
  25. Midweek Midmorning
  26. Stayaway Stars
  27. After The After Party
  28. A Hiccup In Your Happiness
  29. The Chapter In Your Life Entitled San Francisco
  30. Sunlight In A Jar
  31. Fiction
  32. The Town And The Hills
  33. A Sobering Thought (Just When One Was Needed)
  34. California In Popular Song
  35. Get-To-Bed Birds


Over the course of their 16-year career as indie pop whiz kids, the Australian group known as the Lucksmiths crafted loads and loads of intelligent, melodic, and genuinely affecting records. Spread over a myriad of labels and encompassing every format one can imagine, from singles to albums to many compilation tracks, the lads started off with a sparse, acoustic guitar-led sound that fit singing drummer Tali White's simple and direct, emotionally bare vocals perfectly. As a listen to the double-disc career-encompassing Cartography for Beginners: A Best of the Lucksmiths shows, the Lucksmiths changed a bit over the years, trading acoustic guitars for electric, getting more ambitious with their arrangements, but they never lost the core of earnest emotion and catchy pop sweetness that they started with. Most of the first disc, which is devoted to releases from 1993 to 2000, features their stripped-down sound and contains some early highlights like "T-Shirt Weather" and "Shine on Me" that show off the gently rocking side of the band on the former, the sweet and tender ballads on the latter. Disc two covers 2001 to 2009 and shows the band growing and expanding its sound, with songs like "The Chapter in Your Life Entitled San Francisco" and "Midweek Midmorning" giving Belle and Sebastian a run for their money in both the jangle and the lyrical brilliance sweepstakes. The truly lovely "The Great Dividing Range," which is kitted out with piano and strings, is here too, and it's the one song that truly elevated the Lucksmiths into the upper echelon of indie pop bands of their era. Listening to both discs is a nice reminder of just how special the Lucksmiths were, and the high quality of the tracks they were making when they split is a reminder of just how much they are missed. Whether you've been a fan from the start or you are just getting your feet wet, you need this well-chosen collection. The songs are wonderful, the performances delightful, and overall, it delivers indie pop at its very best.   --All Music Guide
The Lucksmiths broke up more than four years ago, yet nary a week has gone by that I haven’t had one of their albums near to my grasp: in the car, on my iPod, near my home stereo. It speaks to the connection fans like me felt to their music. The comfortability of the Lucksmiths’ music was such that the songs, and by relation, the band, felt like next-door-neighbors even though they came from across the globe, in Melbourne, Australia. For devoted fans, Cartography for Beginners presents 35 of those familiar songs in reconfigured form – a chronological revisiting/remembrance of their career, from “Cat in Sunshine”, the second song on their First Tape, through to the last song they recorded, “Get-to-Bed Birds”. For fans who came and went during their 16 years – early fans who grew uninterested and moved on, later fans who never went back to the early stuff – this double-disc release is the perfect opportunity to go back and see what they missed. And to complete newcomers, it’s just the right introduction: a tour through their career, with the emphasis on their best-known or most-admired songs. Twenty-four of these 36 songs were played at their final concert, as presented on the 2011 DVD Unfamiliar Stars, which says something about the focus. Yet the two-disc size and the comprehensiveness of the collection’s reach means it isn’t just about “hits”. Each album is duly represented, as are their most significant EPs and seven-inch singles. This is a case where the chronological order helps reveal how much the group evolved over the years, in songwriting and sound, while also preserving what was special about each period. The earliest songs, which kick off the first disc, are primitive, with the musicians (especially bassist Mark Monnone) playing more exuberantly than they later would. But if the elements of their sound hadn’t fully coalesced yet, the specialness of their brand of songwriting is intact. The hallmarks of a Lucksmiths song – a melancholy tone, a clever focus on how words fit together, an awareness of the overall mood of the song, often entwined with the mood of the characters or their setting – are present in a less smooth but quite vivid way in a song like “Wallboard”, a first-person short story about a brief failed relationship. By “Shine on Me”, three years later, they’d perfected that sort of tender, person-, place- and emotion-focused song. It’s one of their more enduring love songs, if also one of their most sentimental. In a Lucksmiths song, even an expression of absolute love and joy has a tinge of sadness to it – “when she’s here I’m always happy / when she’s not I’m happy-ish.” That blend of the sad and sentimental is key to the Lucksmiths, as is that song’s attention to geography/place and to the sensations of touch and smell. A long-distance love song from a year later, “Guess How Much I Love You”, accentuates the way emotions and places are tied together – the protagonist chronicles his longing across visits to the post office, the Laundromat, bookstores. That song is also where the compilation’s title comes from. The song’s mini-cartography lesson is that maps lie. On a map she’s just three fingers away, but in reality? “It’s more than that.” That song has a line which demonstrates guitarist/songwriter Marty Donald’s love for taking familiar phrases and twisting them, embracing and attaching them at the same time – “your voice sounded so small / the loneliness of a long-distance phone call.” Drummer/singer Tali White has a knack for making this upturning of clichés not sound corny or like a hollow trick. Across these two discs they take familiar phrases and rephrase them for their purposes – “it’s an unread letter day”; “the strangeness of kind friends”—or sync up words and phrases in playful ways (“got yourself some nicotine / in the nick of time”; “the sky was swimming pool blue / and the swimming pool was too”). The Lucksmiths often seem engaged in an extended word game, or wrapped up within reference books like thesauruses and crossword players’ dictionaries. That these word exercises don’t cut against the emotions in their songs, but are used to accentuate them, is part of the wonder of the Lucksmiths. They also are keen chroniclers of weather, geography and time, and how they relate to our emotional lives. Some of their most beautiful, melancholy songs find them contemplating stretches of time or place, and how the changing seasons represent them – “The Great Dividing Range”, “Southernmost”, “The Year of Driving Languorously”. Other songs tap into the more joyous side of weather, like their classic (at least in some circles) spring-time anthem “T-Shirt Weather”. The second disc gets into the 2003-2008 period where their music is continually progressing, as they end a fourth member (Louis Richter) and get also more likely to bring strings, horns and tiny stylistic detours into their sound. These songs still have the spare, directed emotional power of their earlier songs, but musically they’re using a deeper array of tools to build the atmosphere. Lyrically the songs are less overtly “clever”, while tapping into the same resources. Those two aspects together – a stronger approach to music and the refining of their lyrical approach – is how you end up with gems like “Fiction” and “The Chapter in Your Life Entitled San Francisco”. Both are from 2005’s Warmer Corners, which is quite probably their overall best album, though the albums directly before and after it, Naturaliste and First Frost, share many of its best qualities. Cartography for Beginners is a showcase for Lucksmiths classics, by which I largely mean personal favorites or fanbase favorites. Yet it’s also a chance to rediscover or rehear other great songs from their repertoire: “Frisbee”, “The Cassingle Revival”, “Stayaway Stars”, “California in Popular Song”… the list goes on. On this tour back through the Lucksmiths’ music, I’ve found myself especially rehearing “The Cassingle Revial”, from a 2000 single and the 2002 compilation Where Were We?. Before I found myself focusing on the basic melody, the pleasant midtempo pace and the joke of the song title, where his departed lover promises she’ll return when cassingles come back into fashion. (Of course, the joke now may be on her; one of the last major-label albums I reviewed for this site had an accompanying pre-release cassingle.) This time around, though, I’ve been captivated by the song’s earlier images, of time slipping past while our protagonist waits. “I watched my shadow shorten / ankle-deep in autumn” is just one of several gorgeous passages. In a way it ends up feeling like the quintessential melancholy Lucksmiths song. That I could easily say the same about a handful of other songs from across Cartography for Beginners speaks to the overall success of the collection, and of the band.   --PopMatters
It's only when you get right in the middle of this double album that you realise how special The Lucksmiths were, and how much, in a time when indiepop seems to be going through a bit of a downturn, they're missed. With lovingly-written notes by another avatar of pop majesty, Darren Hanlon, 'Cartography for Beginners' is the story of a band that started out as an almost folk-punk-pop outfit, then morphed, wonderfully, into some kind of pure pop machine, before flickering beautifully before their death with a more relaxed, introspective sound. It's all here. The Lucksmiths came into my life around 2000 when I started a paper fanzine called Tasty and had just about given up on indiepop altogether. Along with Spearmint and a few others, this band (and that label), opened up a whole new world for me, and I'll be forever grateful. There are songs here that evoke such strong emotions, such as 'Smokers in Love', 'Untidy Towns', 'Southermost', 'A Downstairs to the Upstairs', 'The Cassingle Revival' and the immense 'Stayaway Stars' which is perhaps one of the most beautiful songs that will ever be written. They burned bright again near the end with 'Sunlight in a Jar' and 'After the After Party' when most other bands would have slipped into mediocrity. That they kept up such magnificence for 16 years is testament to a quartet who have love in their hearts and pop music in their soul. Like all the best bands, then.   --A Layer of Chips
Six weeks ago I told you the best place to start your introduction to the Lucksmiths was 'Warmer Corners.' Three weeks later Matinée Recordings gave us all a better idea. This 35-song two-disc "best of" covers all 16 glorious years of the Aussie band's indie-pop existence. I don't have some of the early albums, and they are long out of print. So, I had to get this one.   --Linear Tracking Lives (Favorite Reissues of 2013)
Melbourne indie pop icons The Lucksmiths played their final gig in 2009 – after a career spanning 11 albums – but their posthumous activity has continued at a steady pace. First was 2010’s ‘Get-to-Bed Birds’ 7” and then 2011’s DVD Unfamiliar Stars. Now comes Cartography for Beginners: A Best of The Lucksmiths. Released on Lucksmiths bassist Mark Monnone’s Lost & Lonesome imprint, it’s a two-disc set covering 35 tracks and two eras: 1993–2000 and 2001–2009. The collection’s cover art is by Mia Schoen (Sleepy Township, New Estate) and there are liner notes by the one and only Darren Hanlon. It’s available now, with US release by Matinée Recordings. Also new on the Lucksmiths front is a vinyl edition of the band’s 2005 album Warmer Corners. Three-quarters of the band reconvened with Great Earthquake’s Noah Symons last year for the new act Last Leaves; new material is due from them next year.   --Mess + Noise
For the duration of their 16-year existence, from 1993 to 2009, the Lucksmiths had an aesthetic so focused and so unvarying they may as well have been Motörhead, a band with whom they could never be confused. The songs collected on this retrospective are almost totally of a piece: singer/drummer Tali White's tremulous-lad tenor (with its undisguised Australian accent) and pitty-pat percussion; chief songwriter Marty Donald's clear, clean guitar tone; and wry lyrics about various shades of emotional ache, featuring the kind of wordplay that tends to come from people who can both define "zeugma" and provide an example ("I can't see the florist for the flowers/ And I can't see the point in hanging 'round.") On a first approximation, "Jewel Thieves" is the only one of the 35 songs here that's not about frail male heteroromantic yearning or musing on surroundings or both. The Lucksmiths were, in other words, the exemplars of a certain kind of deliberately anti-macho indie-pop, and they made no secret of which bands they hearted most: the like-minded, much more short-lived, mostly British acts that had been connected to Sarah Records and the C86 scene. Their fan base was fanatical; their formula was durable. And their Indie 4Eva attitude was largely untempered by their models' and contemporaries' exploration outside their perfumed garden. There's very little on Cartography for Beginners that branches out like the Housemartins' stabs at a cappella gospel, Belle and Sebastian's salutes to Northern soul, or Trembling Blue Stars' bleak eroticism; the horn section on "The Golden Age of Aviation" can trace its lineage to New Orleans only by way of the Cure's "Close to Me". They were cloistered, but they were devout. The Lucksmiths' kind of artistic evolution meant a slow, steady improvement in craft—suppler melodies, slyer puns, more carefully wrought observations—so this is the rare decade-plus retrospective where the later songs beat the early ones. (The addition of second guitarist Louis Richter for their last few albums helped a lot, too.) They broke up amicably enough that they played a farewell tour and recorded a farewell single that's close to a career peak ("Get-to-Bed Birds", the gentlest of valedictions, about staying up too late on New Year's Eve); 3/4 of them went on to start a new band, Last Leaves, together. All of which is good news, and any first-rank Lucksmiths song is a delightful addition to a mix tape. (Cassette tape, please. This is a band that recorded a song called "The Cassingle Revival" in all seriousness, or as close as a perpetually self-ironizing band could get to all seriousness.)   --Pitchfork
Extraordinario recopilatorio en doble CD a cargo del conocido trío (luego reconvertido a cuarteto) de indiepop de Melbourne, que empezaron a funcionar en 1993, y en dónde se recoge una amplia y exhaustiva selección de lo mejor de toda su discografía, un total de 35 canciones de pop de guitarras y fabulosas melodías, una selección realizada por ellos mismos. En el primer CD se recoge lo mejor de la década de los ‘90, y en el segundo CD, lo mejor de la siguiente década. Una buena oportunidad de conocer a un grupo cuyos discos están ya la mayoría descatalogados. Se incluyen habituales del repertorio de directo del grupo, como “Sunlight in a jar”, “Under the rotunda”, “T-shirt weather” o “The chapter in your life entitled San Francisco”.   --El Planeta Amarillo
No recuerdo exactamente cuándo y dónde conocí a los Lucksmiths, pero fue a principios de los dosmiles y desde entonces me han encantado. Originarios de Melbourne, Australia, su estilo está entre el folk, pop, con un toque de Indie, otro poco de twee pop y repleto de melodías. Mi mero mole. Seguramente su mejor trabajo, dicho por muchos, es el álbum Warmer Corners [2005], recientemente editado en formato vinilo. Cartography for Beginners es una recopilación realizada por ellos mismos, disco doble donde el primer CD contiene temas de sus primeras épocas, comenzando en 1993 hasta el 2000, y el segundo presenta canciones del 2001 al 2009. Es aquí donde podemos ver claramente que su sonido prácticamente no ha cambiado, si acaso al principio suenen un tanto más campiranos y con ciertos destellos alternativos, influencias de cosas como The Smiths o los Dead Milkmen, pero en esencia siempre han buscado los mismo: Grandes canciones pop. Una banda que da la impresión de no haber tenido la suerte que se merecen, llevan dos décadas y once álbumes buscando aún ese trabajo que los consagre. Muchos de estos discos ya están descatalogados y son difíciles de conseguir, es por esto que este recopilatorio también sirve para darle vida nueva a estas viejas canciones. Ampliamente recomendado, sobretodo para los que disfrutan de buenas canciones pop.   --Region Cuatro