After the release of their 2015 debut album For The Company, Little May went on tour with The National, Mumford and Sons and The Vaccines, they went through the festival circuit (Splendour in the Grass, Laneway, Falls) and then, after a huge couple of years, they went through some changes.
They saw band mates leave causing a reshuffle, they took time off, dropped their self-described ‘ghost-folk’ tag and contemplated the next step.
That next step is Blame My Body. It’s a bold next step, but not exactly an obvious one. Perhaps on the surface this album could be mistaken for just another shoegaze inspired indie pop record but, if you listen closely, you’ll find quite a brave and nuanced collection of songs. And yes, a lot of the tracks are catchy and polished like any good radio hit, but there is a certain emotional rawness and authenticity about this record, largely thanks to the performances and songwriting of Hannah Field and Liz Drummond, that sets it above the others.
The first three songs on Blame My Body are clear stand-outs. Opener ‘Lover’ acts as a call to arms. It’s a no-nonsense introduction giving us a taste of what to expect over the course of the next 11 tracks; confident, lyrically charged indie pop.
On ‘As Loving Should’ Hanna Field reconciles her past issues with alcohol – “Ooh, liquid gold is in my veins, feel a little better when it takes my place’– and her redemption through love – ‘Cause nothing tastes as good as loving should, And I didn’t know that you’d hang around.’ It’s a stunning track and a powerful example of what music can do not only to the listener, but to the musician. It heals.
‘Apples’ is a brilliant pop song about the hardships of succeeding in the music industry (somewhat ironic, given it’s radio success). The lyrics paint a picture of a panicked artist – “I’m running out of apples, can you give me some? Money I will pay you back if I get the chance, I guarantee my profit will go to you, a profit I haven’t seen before”. These lyrics are coupled with a distinctly ‘90s inspired brand of indie. It has a drive to it that makes me feel like I’m in 10 Things I Hate About You. It’s also a great song to drive to – can recommend.
The album takes a broodier turn towards the end and falls back into Little May’s old ‘ghost-folk’ roots, but the creative production gives the style of songwriting a fresh platform. Title track ‘Blame My Body’ and ‘Back Seat Driver’ have a distinctive In Rainbows via Rumours feel. It gets spooky and eerie, but in a beautiful way. Kinda like if the Amalfi Coast in Italy had a second career as a ghost train.
And that is one thing that must be said about this album: it is immaculately produced. It’s highly impressive, especially seeing as it was recorded in four separate locations: The Curtin Hotel in Melbourne, studios on the NSW Central Coast, Coogee, and Liz’s parents farm in Wollombi, NSW. The make-shift studio vibe adds to the authentic feeling that pervades the whole record. You can tell these musicians were comfortable.
The result is slick and sparkly. The songs shimmer through the speakers. The instrumentation, sometimes full of coarse, distorted textures have been artfully smoothed over as if pouring honey over a sub woofer. Every sonic corner is filled, every frequency has its place. It’s full of punch when it has to be, and etherial when it wants to be. Bravo and kudos to the production team Rob Muinos, Dylan Adams and Little May’s own Liz Drummond. It was a pleasure to listen to this record.
You can hear all of Little May’s influences on this album (Radiohead, Johnny Marr, Mazzy Starr, Smashing Pumpkins, Slowdive, Fleetwood Mac, etc.) but at no point does it feel like they’re ripping anyone off. Hannah and Liz have crafted their own blend of alternative indie. They’ve honed their skills ten fold since For The Company and can now lay claim to a completely individual sound. I look forward to their next step, and the next one…