It’s been a big week for our friends down in New Zealand. After the college football national championship game, winning Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney revealed an interesting source of inspiration he uses in locker room presentations: the “All Blacks” New Zealand rugby team. Then comes this Pickle Darling scoundrel and his new album Bigness (I definitely expected it to be a girl, and a perverted girl like Liz Phair, so I’m a little disappointed but this music is still pretty “darling” I must admit), what seems to be his debut album, if the Bandcamp count is right.
One thing I like about Bigness is that it starts in slow, almost moribund, with his wilting, cackling voice barely piercing an amateurishly played banjo and strummed guitar. This is important in terms of building a climax and not blowing yourself out on one. Also, Lukas Mayo, the primary singer and songwriter here, took great care when putting this mix together, and along with the lead and acoustic, there’s a second, auxiliary melodic guitar whose effect, though the notes are different, isn’t even one of harmony so much as it is just refreshment for your ears, just the luxury of sitting back and enjoying a fully orchestrated album, like a well spiced roast.
At other points, programmed drums and synth crash the party making sort of the “Beach House of the Southern Hemisphere,” if you’d like. Again, the songwriting meticulousness is there in full force and Mayo pulls off this stunning toggling of major and minor keys in “Mouthful.” Also, there’s this cool, trippy spoken-word sound bite that comes in in the middle like on “Paranoid Android” and then these piano runs enter sounding like INXS’ “Beautiful Girl” (one of my favorite songs… yay… and from Australia too as it were). Even where “5am” threatens seemingly to dissolve into pastoral ennui, a patient listen reveals a pithy chord progression and a lavish instrumentation, full of harpsichord, piano and a lightly played, high, shrill and piercing organ, interestingly enough. Add a couple of minutes and some melodramatic lyrics and “5am” could play on R.E.M.’s album Out of Time.
Ahem… yeah side b is basically just a train wreck, with Mayo doing the same stunts over and over of lazy, coyly apathetic vocal, apparently unable to summon up any bandmates or inspiration for any progressiveness. Well, it’s still “darling,” I guess, in its own way. It’s got that going for it, I suppose.