nat & sienna
Reviewed by: Anthony Vawser
Published: 13 July 2011
lp: self titled
Over a gentle jazz-styled rhythm comes a melancholy minor key melody mapped out by country/folk-style acoustic and electric guitars, topped off with sympathetically yearning male vocals, and filled out by striking and unexpected harmonies in the bridge. This is 'Return Later', the enticing entry point to Nat and Sienna’s self-titled album.
Track two ('In Your Arms') is, if anything, even more impressively lovely; Sienna takes her first lead vocal and gently captivates the unwary listener with the beauty of her tone. 'No Shoes' arrives as an unexpectedly driving pop tune, a change in pace that is both welcome and shrewd; the vocal arrangement here is particularly outstanding!
Amongst the ten-track collection’s other impressive highlights, 'Sunday Mourning’s' deep and resonant piano chords match well with its ruefully punning title, but the guitar drives the tune lightly along and the close, airy harmonies breathe optimism even while the phrasing leaves behind an inexplicably haunting aura… 'Colour Me In' has Sienna accompanied by what sounds like a slightly-dinky programmed beat at a moderately perky tempo, which when combined with her solo vocal delivery and the naggingly catchy (yet slightly stiff) music, reminded this reviewer of none other than the highly obscure-yet-alluring '80s pop duo Eye to Eye; whether or not this was the duo’s intention, it helped to make the song a most intriguing diversion on the album! Meanwhile, the standout feature of 'Daylight' is the uplifting key change going into the chorus, which makes an especially effective contrast with the fearful/doubtful verse lyrics, and 'Wipe Away Your Tears' has the kind of memorable chorus that was made for singing along with.
The musical arrangements throughout the album are generally simple and straightforward, and as a result, most of these songs go right to the heart of the listener. Nat and Sienna wisely put great faith in the songs they write, trusting that their innate talent will showcase the music better than any intrusive string section or extraneous production touches could.
Nat shows a trace of vocal similarity with Josh Pyke, whose songs are, by comparison, shinier on the surface, as well as generally more upbeat and outgoing. However, as someone who is yet to detect anything particularly special about Mr. Pyke’s music, no matter how polished and pleasant it may sound, I find myself much preferring the sweet simplicity, alluring intimacy and warm modesty of Nat and Sienna.
If I have any reservations worth mentioning, it would be that, on reflection, one feels at times as though the music is going down almost too easily. While there is not a song amongst the ten on offer here that I dislike or would even attempt to criticize in any significant way, it should be made clear that the pleasures of Nat and Sienna are quietly satisfying rather than earth-shaking or pulse-racing. If, however, like me, you treasure music for precisely the way that it can seem to slow the world down to a more reasonable pace, just when you need relief from daily speed and stress, this is the kind of album that you will end up feeling close to. Far from trying to stir their listeners into a frenzy, Nat and Sienna want to calm your nerves and give you the musical equivalent of a friendly hug; I heartily recommend you take them up on the offer!