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From its inception in the 80s, Sub-Pop has fostered a consistently impeccable lineup of artists ranging from the first heavy-hitters of grunge to current icons of indie rock such as The Shins. Proving their excellent tastes once again, the Seattle label is releasing Forever So, the debut album from Husky, who are one of the newest additions to the Sub-Pop trophy case.
The quartet may have snuck up quietly into the American music scene, but they’re already well-established in and beyond their home of Melborne, Australia: they entered and won a radio network contest which thrust them into the continent’s conscience and have opened for some big names since then. The band consists of Husky Gawenda on vocals and guitar, Evan Tweedie on bass and vocals, Gideon Preiss on keys and vocals, and Luke Collins on drums. Their songs are grounded in folky guitar pickings, but their overall style is more complex and ambitious with its layers of keys and echoey vocals, all of which combine for a sound that is saturated and permeating.
Forever So begins with “Tidal Wave” which takes only seconds to get hooked on and may be the catchiest of the thirteen tracks. The song, especially the chorus, is the first example of the band’s ability to create beautiful melodies and adept lyrics: “I’d change my name if I had one to change / I’d change the world if I wasn’t so plain”. There’s something sad and sweet about the lyrics that makes its way into each track, and it creates an interesting dynamic in the album that comes from the contrast between the warm feel of the music and the ominous coldness of the lyrics. Whether it’s the nightmarish desperation in “Dark Sea” or the wordless goodbyes in “Don’t Tell Your Mother”, the lyrics always dig into some stormy, deep-seated emotion and often touch upon the woeful and irreversible changes time brings.
In “Animals & Freaks”, Gawenda takes on the figure of an elderly man desperate for someone with whom to share his tale of a mysterious woman who waltzed in and out of his life. Full of similes and wistful reminiscence, the song is one of the album’s most poetic. Then there’s a muse named Josephine, who is mentioned as a casualty of the narrator’s love in “Don’t Tell Your Mother” and is then spoken of again in “Farewell (In 3 Parts)”, in which the first “part” is slow and delicate with its piano parts and faint background vocals. Then the song switches pace, and Gawenda sings, “Time can be so cruel / But it’ll be my friend someday” a line that sums up a lot of the sentiment expressed elsewhere in the album. Layered vocals and a horn part lead the album into its final moments. While the songs’ narrator has been singing about leaving and wandering away for the majority of the album, “Farewell” seems to be his formal goodbye. But with any luck, Gawenda and the others won’t actually go disappearing off the face of the earth any time soon; they did just get here, after all.