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First Frost

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Album Review

The Lucksmiths have never released a record that was less than lovely. Since 1993 the Australian trio (now quartet) has been crafting thoughtful indie pop that warms both ears and hearts in equal measure. Filled with some of their best songs and most fully realized arrangements, 2005's Warmer Corners marked a high point in the band's career that would seem like a hard act to follow. Luckily, the band is up for the challenge on 2008's First Frost, and if it falls a little short of Warmer Corners, the album is still top-shelf Lucksmiths. The full arrangements (horns, strings, and loads of backing vocals) are here; the songs are a mix of tender ballads, chugging rockers, and introspective midtempo rambles; and Tali White's everyman vocals are as intimate and real as ever. This time out, the songwriting chores are split among the four members, with each of them focusing on tiny moments of heartbreak and spinning tales of poetic melancholy in a way that has become the band's trademark. Marty Donald turns in some truly memorable songs, "California in Popular Song" and "How We Met" chief among them, while new guitarist Louis Richter happily proves himself able to meet the high standards the band has established with his two contributions, "The Town and the Hills" and "Never and Always." Richter may also be responsible for the heavier guitar tones that appear throughout the album, giving tracks like "Up with the Sun" and "South-East Coastal Rendezvous" a jolt of rock energy. The female vocals (courtesy of Bee Rigby) on the country weeper "Lament of the Chiming Wedgebill" and the Hammond organ and cowbell (!) on "Who Turned Out the Lights?" also serve to expand the group's sonic template. These slight changes and surprises are nice, but what counts in the end are the songs and the voice that sings them — both are in fine form, and First Frost is more of the Lucksmiths at their finest.


Formed: Australia

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Australian indie pop trio the Lucksmiths teamed singer/percussionist Tali White, guitarist Marty Donald, and bassist Mark Monnone, longtime school friends who initially bonded over their mutual admiration for the Smiths. After going their separate ways to attend university and travel, the threesome reconvened in their native Melbourne in early 1993, playing their debut gig that April opening for the Sugargliders. The Lucksmiths' debut tape was soon released, and in 1994 the group resurfaced with...
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First Frost, The Lucksmiths
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