Thursday, June 18, 2015

REVIEW: Mallee Songs - Natural Times

A while back we featured Gum Creek and Other Songs (here) from Mallee Songs, the solo recording project of Michael Skinner.  Now recording with a full band, Skinner has released Natural Times, a collection of songs he wrote in recent years.  I don't know how much press the album will receive, and I don't see any evidence that there is a big public relations budget.  So I'll carry some water to the millions who read this blog religiously and say this with the full weight of my formidable reputation: Natural Times is one of the best guitar pop albums of the year so far.  The songs initially appear relaxed and unassuming, but the melodies have an epic lyrical flow, with a generous helping of earworms.  The guitar lines are supple and engaging.  The atmosphere is both warm and melancholy -- an accepting look at life in all its facets.  The songwriting is masterful, touching on varied approaches to guitar pop without disrupting the soothing flow.  So there is psychedelia, dream pop, and a bit of country rock.  Folk rock touches abound, and a few tracks, such as "Water", seem to have crossed the big ditch from Dunedin, New Zealand. But as a whole, it is a wonderful and delightfully detailed tapestry.

Certainly, it is hard not to laud an album that contains not one, but several of my favorite songs of the year so far.  "Water", album closer "Nothing Abides", "Warm Breeze" and "Since the Kingdom" are all on my top songs playlist.  And that is before mentioning my favorite song on the album, "Christmas '93".

For my tastes, this is an excellent summer album.  I go out to the courtyard as the sun drops below the horizon, and listen to Natural Times on repeat while consuming several bottles of bone-strengthening IPA to recover from my recent cycling foibles.

Mallee Songs - Since the Kingdom from AVBadham on Vimeo.

In addition to Michael Skinner, Mallee Songs is Gerard Smith, Pascal Babare and James Allen.  Natural Times is available from Gaga Digi and at iTunes and Spotify, and in Europe the CD edition is available from Beko

Gaga Digi
Beko page for CD in Europe

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