Let’s set things straight before we begin: this title is complete false advertising. First off, there’s nothing hard about Lower Plenty‘s Hard Rubbish. Secondly, the soft songs are definitely not rubbish.
I’m sure that there are a fair amount of albums recorded on an eight-track cassette around a kitchen table, but Hard Rubbish sounds like it was. This Australian four-piece really did record this on eight-track in the kitchen. Some of the sounds seem like they came from a home; organic everyday sounds just set to a loop in the background. Though I can’t confirm what sounds were used on Sarah Heyward’s loop machine, I’m guessing they included a shower running, a tennis ball bouncing, knocking at a door, and either ice cubes clinking in a glass or wooden wind chimes (or am I just imagining summer sounds?). These aren’t the only non-traditional aspects of the band. The set-up includes two guitars, drums, “processed percussion” (the loop machine,) and four sets of vocals. That’s all they need. Heyward’s vocals are beautiful and can hold their own even when paired up with the deeper vocals of the male singers (she is the only female in the group, which is made of members from other Australian bands.)
The songs are slow, mellow, and sad. While there’s something calm about the soft tracks, each song gives a feeling of being worn out. Each vocalist sounds exhausted by the things they’re singing about, which fits so well with the lyrics. “Strange Beast” starts off with lyrics about loneliness, “Nullarbor” (which I find to be the prettiest song on the album) features a lady driving away from lovers and friends, “Grass” has lyrics like “did you have to take all the love and leave the rest to no one?” “Close Enough” goes “I was far enough away just to hear myself say goodbye.” There is a lot of emotion packed into this short nine-song album even though it keeps a pretty steady, slow pace.
Many of the aspects of the album are things I might/do usually complain about like a distorted cacophony in the background of “Dirty Flowers,” repetitive lyrics on “Grass,” higher female vocals backing lower male ones, and including one of the members counting in. I’m not complaining about it on this album though. Something about all of it works on Hard Rubbish, everything sounds organic and I wouldn’t change a thing. The album is a little messy with all of the unique background noises, but it adds some sort of authenticity. I can’t put my finger on why this works so well, but it does. I love the vocals, I love the simplicity, I love that I can’t put my finger on every background noise (though they each sound so familiar.) I know this will be an album that I return to often and will likely recommend to others, though I won’t know how to explain why. It just works.
MP3: Lower Plenty “Nullarbor”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl