The Australian band Firekites are reminiscent of Kings of Convenience, and maybe Elliott Smith, though without the infective pop sensibilities. In short, they make the kind of music to get you through a Sunday afternoon, but without the risk of getting the words stuck in your head. Through woozy, instrument-driven pop, their debut album, The Bowery, has a mellow, orchestral quality.
The opening track, “Last Ships,” starts with snapping and lots of strings — a preview of the tracks to follow. “Autumn Story,” too, has DIY rhythms in the form of handclaps. Though a good chunk of The Bowery sounds pretty much the same, there are a few standout tracks after the halfway mark.
“Another State” is lower and darker, and sounds a shade more electronic, with less acoustic instrumentation as well, as opposed to the rest of the album. Additionally, the vocals are done by guest singer, Jane Tyrrell; her voice lends a sultry jazziness to each song she is present in.
There are three instrumental tracks on The Bowery, which break up the album rather nicely. Unfortunately, like many of the other tracks, in the absence of lyric ingenuity, the rhythms and runs get tired and repetitive too quickly.
The two frontmen, Rod Smith and Tim McPhee, both play a wide array of instruments and are joined by Jason Tampake on violin. A mélange of other musicians help this band of three sound like a working orchestra. Although less violent sounding and abstract than Ani Difranco, Firekites focus on more classical-style guitar work, which builds into the handclaps and stick-taps to create a much understated rhythm within the album.
Though Firekites create a lush and dreamy scene, there’s quite a bit to be desired. The Bowery is great if you’re doing the crossword on a frigid October morning — the perfect album, in fact, to go with your Earl Grey. But where there’s already so much around that is both memorable and beautiful, The Bowery is best left in the background.