Detail from "Eygenhaert is gout Waert" by Matthaeus Merian the Elder, first published by Peter Aubry in Strasburg, 1624
I'm a fan of the Australian pop band the Lucksmiths, but it always puzzled me that lead singer Tali White has few writing credits on their songs. Marty Donald and Mark Monnone are smart to let White sing their songs because he has a great voice for the material they write, but it must create an atypical band dynamic. And why doesn't White write any songs himself? Well, it turns out that he does, and his songs primarily end up with his collaborative side-project, the Guild League, a indie-pop supergroup of sorts made up of White's friends. My interest in the Guild League was aroused recently when I heard that President Obama used a Guild League lyric in one of his speeches. So I ordered Private Transport, the Guild League's 2002 debut.
It's an odd record, with a real sedate, melancholy vibe to it. The theme of travel is central to the record, starting with the upbeat opener, "Jet Set... Go!" It's the only real upbeat pop song on the record, though, and, by the middle of the record, the songs have settled into a real moody sound that drags a little. This lull is disrupted by "Siamese Couplets", the album's most talked-about song - it's commonly referred to as a "rap" by Tali White about southeast Asia. The verses are indeed talk-sung in a wimpy staccato delivery, but it's not fair to hip-hop to make any comparison to real rap. The song is fun, though, if you just enjoy it, with a lovely sung chorus and trumpet part. The best thing about "Siamese Couplets" is that it introduces the album's strong final third, which culminates in "A Faraway Place", which is a new favorite album closer for me.
"A Faraway Place" is a madrigal-like choral piece that starts with hand claps and ocean sounds, upon which are layered several a capella chants, and then the vocals stop suddenly and are replaced by an interlude of string instruments. The song ends with all the vocal parts coming back simultaneously over the strings, showing how the concomitant pieces of the arrangement fit together. Songs like this one, made up of little pieces that fit together in a neat compositional way without following a verse-chorus structure, always appeal to me. And "A Faraway Place" pulls it off excellently, making the sometimes wearying journey of Private Transport seem more than worthwhile.
"A Faraway Place" by the Guild League