TOM LARK – The Tom Lark EP
Jeez, all this rad NZ music is making me wish I’d never moved away. Tom Lark’s old studio was destroyed after the Christchurch earthquake, and he’s still managed to come out with a record that’s absorbing, fun and thought-provoking in the best kind of way. This is less the straightforwardness of Crowded House and more the storytelling of nouveau-NZ — the stuff I remember just starting to bloom before I left: a return to abrupt, to-the-point songs with the kind of playful, bizarro feel that happens when you’re left to your own devices on a set of green islands down the bottom of the world.
But let’s talk about this EP as it’s been drumming up some grassroots fame since its domestic release last year — and with good reason. The liner notes make specific mention of the “weird sounds”, and they’re pervasive and fun, with yelping samples and pew-pew noises making a thick backing to the lyric “Christians who don’t do shit, yeah! Yeah!” on Hipsteranity. Opener All Night Long is maybe the best walking-tempo, deep-thinking strummy acoustic guitar ditty since Bic Runga’s Get Some Sleep, with a sweet twist of warbling leads and wet vocal effects.
Despite the solidness of the upbeat front end, it’s in the later moments of reflection that Tom Lark shines. She Gone is both uptempo and genuinely melancholy, with disconcerting clicks like the moving of a giant, sad, mechanical weta and a ghostly “woo” in the background. Tea Sets sports gentle harmonies over subtle strums and a theremin-like melody, and although it can be hard to be sad in songs without resorting to cliché, the tempo shifts and unusual instrumentation take a universal sentiment — “I miss you” — and put a spin of alienation on it that feels both fresh and ultra-familiar. The weird sounds have won it for me: this guy’s going on heavy rotation.
SAM GEORGE-ALLEN is a Brisbane writer, postgrad student and musician who can be found being disappointing @samga