Tagged By cool sounds

LISTEN: Cool Sounds – ‘Dance Moves’

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“It was certainly a joke to begin with”.

In an interview on the excellent Weirdo Wasteland podcast, Cool Sounds bassist Nick Kearton gives a run down of the beginnings of the band that gives the impression that they could’ve easily faded into memory as a ‘one tape on a little known foreign label’ affair.

Talking about their first few efforts, Kearton comments that while there were definitely songs that he liked on efforts like Melbourne Fashion and Healing Crystals, ultimately the work Cool Sounds had been shopping around wasn’t as realised as it could’ve been. The band wasn’t really sure what it was even trying to be yet, which resulted in entire songs on Healing Crystals being based solely off of IMDb movie plot synopses.

The leap forward to Dance Moves, is huge. This record marks Cool Sounds’ debut on Melbourne label Deaf Ambitions, where they rub shoulders with groups like pop duo Zone Out and slacker pop quintet Crepes.

Cool Sounds aren’t new kids at school by any means, with plenty of the team hailing from the “incestuous, and ever prolific Ocean Party clique” (Deaf Ambitions’ hilarious description). The Ocean Party’s presence and influence is easily felt. From that band, front man Dainis Lacy has pinched a few; Zach Denton works the keys, Liam Halliwell is on sax, and Kearton is OP’s go-to replacement when Crowman can’t make a gig. But I digress; we’re talking about Dance Moves here, and its author is Lacy.

You could describe Cool Sounds as being guitar pop with synth rock chucked into a blender with a black and white photo of some urban street in the rain and you’d probably be correct – though, you’d also be really bad at describing things in understandable ways. The band likes to bandy around this genre term ‘jazz-gaze’ and I don’t know if they’re joking but if not I’d have to disagree. The saxophone embellishments on many of these songs are just that, embellishments. They don’t define the albums course or tone, more serving a greater purpose of smooth new wave/guitar pop jamming that many of the songs belong to.

Songs like ‘In Blue Skies’ are effortless masterstrokes of Cool Sounds’ version of this kind of guitar pop, it’s flamenco acoustic guitar bridge leading into a gorgeously harmonised outro. It’s also got a music video you can watch above where the Lacy makes out lovingly with a basketball, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Lacy’s song writing doesn’t sit in any one emotional ballpark; he’ll contrast vulnerable lines like “I begin to shake/stop looking my way” on ‘Shake’ with huge sweeping guitar and saxophone climaxes. Lyrically, Dance Moves touches on elements of vulnerability, distance, isolation, and the struggles of self control. On the opening track ‘Control’, Lacy admits “I keep dreaming that I’m cheating on you” in probably one of the most honest opening lines I’ve heard this year.

‘Heartbreak’ is a fantastic detour into all out synth pop, synthesizer arpeggios scattering about in the background whilst the drums and bass give the rhythm a work out and Lacy croons over the top, it’s also got one of the best lines on the album, “I’m a man, please justify me.”

It’s unfortunate that in certain instances Lacy’s vocals aren’t up to the task though – with the impressive production laid onto Dance Moves regardless of it’s bedroom recording roots (you can thank Halliwell for that too) Lacy struggles at times to match his voice to the hugeness of the instrumentation around him, not quite reaching certain notes and getting lost in the mix at times. This happens worst on ‘Runs Wild’, that song probably being the most undercooked on Dance Moves, ending in a really awkward way, something that betrays its speed.  While Lacy’s voice might be an acquired taste, his tender and earnest vocal delivery often make up for it.

Lacy’s lyricism is his real strength. He’s not overtly self pitying or glorifying his own weaknesses. He deals with them in a manner that lays them bare and picks at them mercilessly like an out of body experience. In that interview with Weirdo Wasteland, Kearton mentions much of Dance Moves is built out of experiences Lacy had while holding together a long distance relationship that stretched across continents.

Dance Moves is an impressive feat. Lacy decided to bring together everything great that Cool Sounds was with a shiny new coat of paint, and Halliwell’s production ensures that everything sounds way better than a bedroom recording should. While it’s in need of some variation at times, the blueprint for Cool Sounds going forward is so compelling and infectious that Dance Moves sets very few steps wrong.

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PREMIERE: Cool Sounds – ‘In Blue Skies’

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Cool SoundsIs it a crime to not like guitar pop yet? It should be. I’d fight that fight. However I also think ‘is this the genre that I’ll look back on a decade from now and be like “but why?”‘ Whatever, sad guitar pop is just very listenable, is what I’m trying to say. Two releases deep, Cool Sounds (featuring members of probably every other band in Melbourne) have presented us with ‘In Blue Skies’, the first offering off what they’re calling their debut album (they could be three in already depending on which way you cut it), ‘Dance Moves’.

When you name your band something as disarming as Cool Sounds you immediately position yourself on that fine line between banal and banal but in a low key, acceptably ironic way. CS edge into the latter category by writing songs that are emotionally invested in the former; shit that happens to everyone with a frequency that makes it mundane, but still makes you feel feelings that you’re positive no one has ever felt before when they happen to you.

On ‘In Blue Skies’, Dainis Lacey turns his attention to a relationship reluctantly withering away. It’s a sad song with sprinkles of flamenco-esque guitar and Sara Retallick’s vocals echoing Lacey’s longing through the chorus. It’s the kind of track I’d sing into an empty bar 16 G&T’s deep after a crumbly breakup. That’s never happened, but I kind of want it to because then I’d be able to say something about life imitating art. ‘In Blue Skies’ almost takes me there, a place where I’m down but not entirely out, one foot ready to make the next move while the other is stubbornly planted in the past.

If Foals’ Yannis Philippakis was a more mellow human he’d sound exactly like Lacey, and if Lacey wanted to take Cool Sounds in a more extreme direction I’m sure he’d sound like Philippakis yelping into a stadium. For now though, CS are making some consistently…cool…sounds. And I always have room for that in my life.

Dance Moves is due out via Deaf Ambitions late 2016. 

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PREMIERE: Cool Sounds – ‘Control’

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Cool Sounds are slowly and surely becoming a professional band. They were always good, but now they have a real, bonafide music video to prove it. (Not strictly their first vid, but Dainis’ moustache is extra commanding – ed.) Listen up, Universal Music, Sony Records, Warner…the bidding war will start at approximately 6.30 pm (1830 hours) at The Workers Club, TOMORROW NIGHT. Don’t be late, or face the eternal regret of missing the chance to sign a band that “connects with the youth”.

Since starting out a few years ago, Cool Sounds have put out two albums, toured the globe, and released music on both Whalesmouth and Beko Disques, two labels that can do no wrong. From the outset that might seem impressive, but from the perspective of the incestuous Ocean Party enclave that Cool Sounds come from, it’s all fairly par for the course. Seriously, anyone remotely linked to that sprawl of musicians seems to be in about seven different bands who are all touring and releasing stuff constantly. It’s an exhausting thing to admire.

But back to Cool Sounds – they’ve evolved again from their January offering Healing Crystals. Their new track, ‘Control’, shows the band stretching the wide-eyed, hopeful guitar pop of previous records. ‘Control’ wrestles with conflicting desires, the protagonist divulging his inability to stay in an intimate relationship. It’s definitely the most morbid thing to come from the Cool Sounds camp so far.

For the clip, directed by Rex Kane-Hart, the smooth sax and jangly guitars are juxtaposed with paranoid, gritted grins and a peeping Tom’s view of a murderous relationship. Flicking between partners and band members, there’s a constant twinge of unease, despite the overriding calm of Cool Sounds’ music. That’s what literary types call ‘CONTRAST’.

V. meta, Cool Sounds, v. meta.

Catch Cool Sounds on tour with the Ocean Party in October:

8 October – The Phoenix, Canberra
9 October – Vic on the Park, Sydney
17 October – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
30 October – The Eastern, Ballarat
31 October – The Metro, Adelaide

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PREMIERE: Cool Sounds – ‘Headset’

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Melbourne sextet Cool Sounds come from that wonderful part of the world (read: Brunswick) that gave us Ciggie Witch, Zone Out, Velcro and the Ocean Party. Predictably, lad-about-town Liam Halliwell – aka Snowy Nasdaq – has got a piece of the pie, joining the band on saxophone.

In August Cool Sounds released their debut LP, Melbourne Fashion – a title that, like the band name, suggests these guys aren’t entertaining any self-aggrandising ideas. In their own words, Cool Sounds are ‘jangle enforcers’ producing ‘stadium dolewave’. They write about all the big issues – Degrassi Junior High, Katie Holmes movies, friends having babies, friends going away for the week, ‘cringe-y’ love stories. Their latest track is a blow-by-blow account of waiting on hold to speak to a telco operator.

‘Headset’ is the first single from Cool Sounds’ forthcoming record, Healing Crystals. It’s brighter and cleaner than the washed-out tracks of Melbourne Fashion, but it’s still got that heat-shimmer effect – sustained by layers of vocals, sax and whammy bar.

Healing Crystals will be out on 9 January through Beko Disques, the French label that’s put out material from locals Day Ravies, Nathan Roche, Parading and Wizard Oz. (Check out their recent compilation of Australian jangle, Oz Do It Better!).

Cool Sounds have a bunch of shows coming up in support of the new album, including a Sunday afternoon residency at the Tote for the launch of ‘Headset’. Details below:

20/12/14 @ The Shadow Electric, Abbotsford w/ Dan Kelly, Civil Civic (UK) and Bayou

02/01/15 @ Purple Hen Winery, Phillip Island w/ The Ocean Party

04/01/15 @ The Tote w/ Juicy Lolstar (Lucas Heenan) & Ciggie Witch

11/01/15 @ The Tote w/ Crepes & Good Mornings

15/01/15 @ Phoenix Bar, Canberra w/ TBA

16/01/15 @ The Record Crete, Sydney w/ Black Springs

18/01/15 @ The Tote w/ Full Ugly

25/01/15 @ The Tote w/ Palm Springs & Tam Vantage

04/04/15 @ Boogie, Tallarook

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