As you can imagine I get quite a few requests for reviews. I do as many as one person can do and I approach them from a punters perspective. I’m not really the one to tell you about chord progressions, mastering techniques and the like but moreso about what’s likeable and well sometimes I have to subscribe to being ‘the one who has to say it’ – not everything can be perfect right!!
Sometimes reviews are short and sweet and other times you get a offered a piece that oozes class and gets you excited from the get go! Something that you can just dig into and you have to have your say simply because the world needs to hear about it. A work of pure craftsmanship that you just can’t fluff about with something you want the readers to share your in depth experience of. This happened the day the album “A Life in Stages” landed in my inbox.
“A Life in Stages” is due for release November 12th 2021 and is an 11 track LP/Album from Brisbane based alternative- folk group Elbury. It’s their 2nd album release but their first in their new 5 piece format. It’s a sublime album full of singer-songwriter originals with some ballads, some rock, some country and what is arguably Elbury’s most ‘upbeat’ tune in their current repertoire.
Just who are Elbury anyway??
Elbury are Edward Buckridge (Guitar/Vocals), Michael Luck (Guitar/Vocals), Tam Hutchison (Drums/Vocals), Luke Mulhare (Bass/Vocals)and Brooke Austen (Keyboards/Vocals). They are a team comprised of accomplished musicians from various musical backgrounds –
“a Nick Cave man, a prog-rocker, singer-songwriters and indie-fans – and everyone adds their own special twist to the mix.” (https://amrap.org.au/artist/elbury-3)
And what of “A Life In Stages”??
I could have grouped individual songs together and given you an overall view per paragraph (would have made this review that much shorter) but I felt that was a misjustice to this piece of work. This album is the most listenable, likeable, intoxicatingly beautiful and professionally sound piece that has crossed my path in 2021. Once I began to soak it all in (pretty sure it hooked me about 60 sec’s into the first track) there was no doubt in my mind that I needed to talk about every track on it’s own merits! Come along with me and share my experience…
“A LIFE in STAGES” by Elbury
Opening the album is ‘SUGAR’ which I can only describe as a kaleidoscope of sweet drippy sounds resulting in a glorious ride. If anyone asked you what Folk- Psych sounded like Sugar should be one of your go to’s. It begins chilled out and mellow but soon has you hooked in the surrealism, and I noticed I had been gently and involuntarily swaying by the crescendo. The dreamscape is real as Edward Buckridge effortlessly becomes the visionary leader vocally. In support are the wafting interludes of superlative harmonies and the instrumental prowess of each member of Elbury in unison…a gift they are well known for.
Still in my otherworld realm I wasn’t quite ready for the shake up of ‘PICKLE’! It was kind of like stepping out of a warm bath into a cold shower yet somehow it was just as invigorating!! Forget swaying, this one’s a ‘toe tapper’. The instrumentation taking on a clearness with precise rhythms and punctuations. With it’s upbeat tempo Pickle takes us on a journey about a life that goes quicker than expected and a want to find a ‘magic youth potion’ to put on the brakes. Most definitely a tempo induced heart starter after Sugar.
‘WHISPERS‘ is steeped in classic Elbury Folk-Rock. What is classic Elbury Folk-Rock? – that’s layers of vocals, guitars and keys…just think rich lush layers of sound. It portrays the narratives of rumors and preconceived notions and how these are used to come to an opinion on you by others. Whispers was the first single release from “A Life in Stages” in 2019 and it netted Elbury a #3 spot in the 4ZZZ Top 100 for 2020! Way to go Elbury!!
I absolutely loved the mystery presented to me through the instrumental beginning of ‘RED ARROW’. Wasn’t sure where it was going to go but it turned into a beautifully haunting introduction into the vocal timbres and intensities of Elbury’s pianist Brooke Austin. The song itself is moody and presents with a big chorus which had Austin soaring to heights I won’t even try to emulate. Well, I tried, but there’s a reason she’s the songstress and I’m the writer!! Red Arrow was just simply lyrically, vocally and instrumentally euphonious!
Coming in at track 5 is ‘PASSPORT’ the 4th single to be released from Elbury’s forthcoming album. Passport is about trying to make a journey back to the past. Time to show you guys what I’m yabbering on about. I’m keen to share the single’s video with you…for your viewing and listening pleasure – Passport by Elbury…
Great track and accompanying video …
Ohhhhhhh how I loved how the next track progressed – introducing ‘POPULAR HERO’! Starting out with the origination of reclining rock with steady vocals and leading into a heavily laden distortional outburst of the chorus all of which was served up by lead guitarist Michael Luck. I did find that perhaps there was a little too much gnarl of the distortion when weighted against the vocalist at some points finding that I lost Luck in the fray, it was a minor transgression, and this track is still one of the most enjoyable on the album.
Wait…is that…Paul Kelly?? Nada – In fact it’s Elbury’s very own Bassist Luke Mulhare. He’s in charge of lead vocals and the acoustic on ‘VIOLET TOWN’ and does a brilliant job of proving that Bass players do more than thump!! Kudos to you Mr Mulhare. Violet Town is about the complexities of toxic relationships and is sung from the viewpoint of someone looking for a safe retreat. Released as the 3rd single from the album in 2021, I found Violet Town followed a somewhat traditional format within its genre (Country-Rock) but also found a shiny star at the end with an impressive guitar solo.
‘HEROES AND VILLIANS’ is the 8th track from Elbury’s second LP, “A Life in Stages” and how I was introduced to the five piece band Elbury. I’ve done a review of this single in another blog post – you can read it here. What I can tell you is that this single is still my favourite off this album having very nearly been pipped off the post by track 1 – Sugar.
Did I say somewhere in my musings above I looked forward to hearing more from Brooke Austin?? Well, didn’t have to wait long – The track is called ‘ROSE’. With a little help from Elbury’s drummer Tam Hutchinson these ladies carry this all the way. Compared to previous tracks this one fell a little time short for me almost like it was half a track. In composition it was a little light also…I just don’t know – all the classy elements are there…perhaps this is a classic example of each listener taking their own from it…so do that – have a listen and draw your own conclusion!
Speaking of which – here’s where I’m going to let you go off and explore the last three tracks of Elbury’s new release – “A Life in Stages” – ‘TAROT’, ‘HOLLOW’ and ‘HANDS’.
You didn’t really expect me to take all the joy out of your opportunity to discover Elbury did you?? Perhaps a few tid bits to entice you and as described by Elbury themselves:
- One is a bit left field with some unusual rhythms and song structures, and a killer lead guitar outro from Mike Luck!
- One is a fun, jaunty folk tune, with layers and guitars, keys, and synth.
- One involves a Folk track with intricate fingerstyle guitar, beautiful male/female harmonised lines, and a rocking bridge section!
Like I said in the beginning, Elbury‘s “A Life in Stages” oozes class. Everything from the vocals, instrumentals, production and anything you can conceive in-between is a testament to the creativity, songwriting abilities, musicianship and uniqueness that make up Elbury as a collective.
For me the use of all the band members individual talents and incorporating their interests across the whole album was a big bonus especially when highlighting lead vocals. This added an extra dimension that you would not normally be privvy to as most outfits have their lead vocalist and that’s that. There’s no doubting that’s one hell of a talent pool Elbury have got going on.
Standout tracks on “A Life in Stages” – Sugar, Red Arrow, Violet Town and Heroes and Villians with the latter being my favourite followed ever so closely by Sugar, actually there’s probably nothing in it so let’s call them evens as far as favourites go.
Once you become familiar with the lyrics for each track it’s impossible for you to resist singing along. I’ve just been on a journey that included moments of nostalgic reflection, ethereal obliteration and foot stomping fun! Take your breathers with the slower tracks and whoop it up with Elbury on others…’whatever is your fancy‘.
This album is made for your listening pleasure and made to take pride of place in your collection!
Final note: I’d like to see Elbury produce some more Folk-Psych…I’d be up for an EP in that genre even…I wonder if their reading this??
“A Life in Stages” by Elbury available on all your favourite streaming platforms – Friday November 12th, 2021.
“A Life in Stages” ALBUM LAUNCH
5.30pm – Sunday 28th November
Can You Keep A Secret
619 – 621 Stanley Street
Buy your tickets here
Follow Elbury Here