Reviewed by: Anthony Vawser
Published: 17 October 2010
ep: self titled
This is a rave review, okay? Let’s get that crucial fact established, so that you now have the choice of either reading all the way down to the bottom of the page and finding out exactly what I liked about Gemini Downs’ debut EP (i.e. everything) or you can just go directly to their artist page on this site (or their MySpace and Facebook pages) and start discovering for yourself why I think they’re the best new local band of their type (hell, of any type) that I’ve heard in ages!
Brother and sister multi-instrumentalist/singers Sean and Jessica Braithwaite each take three lead vocals (shrewdly alternated in the track listing for maximum dynamic impact), and the contrast between them is often breathtakingly effective - yet when they need to blend, they do so with impeccable skill! ‘Too Sweet to See’ is a most apt title for the first track here, because the honeyed surface of the song may initially obscure for some listeners the drops of venom that lie in wait! The saxophone played by group members Lauren Fowler and Scott Woollett (entering soon after Jessica wraps her lovely Aussie voice around the opening lyrics) does a skillfully subtle job at setting this group apart from your typical average blues/roots/folk band, and then the superb sibling harmonising (smooth on top with real strength and grit underneath), plus the brilliant blend of lyrical smoothness, defiance and vulnerability creates a magical mixture of musical ingredients, and sets a standard that Gemini Downs succeed (and then some) in meeting for all six tracks on this release!
‘From Darwin’ sounds to these ears like a future Aussie classic; it’s one of the best locally-grown songs I’ve heard since Emily Smart’s ‘Italy’, and will hopefully bring Gemini Downs the recognition they deserve! Inspired by real-life heartbreak (as so much great art can be), it reminded me structurally of one of my favourite artists, Joan Armatrading, with maybe a dash of Missy Higgins vibe (another good thing in my book), but Gemini Downs go places lyrically that I doubt either of those fine artists would have risked, while dynamically the song is just stunningly powerful – and they have the good judgment to follow this exhilarating number with a relaxing bossa-nova song, while also taking the opportunity to demonstrate their impressive versatility!
But what about the weak points, you ask? Well…heck, I don’t know…maybe the production/arrangement on ‘Crazy’ could have been a bit tougher and fuller and not so consciously-cute and lightweight – ahh, who do I think I’m kidding?? It’s terrific the way it is – and that includes the balloon, whoopee cushion and squeaky dog toys, plus the spoken interjections (all devices much underutilised and underrated in the world of music!)
I thought that as a critic I was supposed to be able to identify a weak link; actually have something to criticize, you know – but what can I say? Gemini Downs sing marvellously, they play beautifully, they write wonderfully, their music is excellently recorded by Dave Gully – and they’re all gorgeous-looking young people into the bargain! Since I am at a loss as to what could be wrong with, missing from or improved upon in this group and these six songs, my advice would simply be to get acquainted with Gemini Downs ASAP and see if you can prove me wrong by finding something, ANYthing, to complain about…
(I can guarantee you won’t!)