Words by Shannon-Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer
Every now and then, some music comes into my life that makes me stop and appreciate just how magic music really is.
Every now and then, I am near lost for words because a piece of music touches me so deeply, so emotionally, that I cry. I sit and I cry while I listen. Not because I am sad. Not because I feel pain. But because I am completely overwhelmed by the fact that something exists in this world that is so completely and utterly divine, that my heart is given to it in that moment, completely. Surrendered to the song. Melded with the music. Relating to the lyrics, to the story, and moved by the sounds of the instruments played together in harmony. Moved by the music. At one with the music. And this is how I felt upon my first listen to These Idle Hands debut album, ‘Petrichor.’
It’s been a tough, confusing, emotional time for almost everyone on the earth right now. A pandemic that has swept away our sense of normality, taken away comfort zones, taken away things that matter, taken health, taken lives. But, it has also given us something. It’s given us time to reflect. Reflect on our world and ourselves, in so many ways. It’s made us appreciate things we perhaps took for granted. And it’s given creative minds and souls a time to create and a time to shine.
The new music that is coming out in droves right now warms my heart. Now, this album I am quite sure, was not entirely written during lockdown and isolation (perhaps some of it was though). However, the first time I listened to it was during this time. Released on June 27, 2020, ‘Petrichor’ is without a doubt one of my ‘Albums Of The Year’. Not only that, but everyone I tell about it, falls in love with it too. I would go as far as to say, These Idle Hands are one of the Gold Coast’s best kept secrets. If you love storytelling lyrics and Alternative Folk music, then this band is for you. With hints and reflections of some of the greats such as Paul Kelly, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, The Waifs, Crooked Still, REM and more. But let me tell you, you have to be prepared for this album, it’s like jumping in the deep end of the pool, there is so much depth, heart, soul and raw emotion in this album. It’s a heart cracked open. It’s real and it will make you feel.
The album opens with an instrumental, On Dusk. A beautiful prelude into the album and a glimmering display of all the instruments in harmony with the violin being the star of the show in this one.
Rolling into My Heart Left Long Before I Did, this song is heart wrenching. A story of loss, but also, one of fighting and strength. Though it is clearly a personal song and story, it’s relatable for so many. We’ve all experienced loss and the long list of emotions that comes with it. In fact, a recent loss in my family makes this track even more poignant and emotive to listen to. But, though it’s heart wrenching, it’s also healing. I have shivers from head to toe upon every listen. I can’t thank Murray and the band enough for this song.
Before I go on with the tracks on the album, I should stop to introduce the band. These Idle Hands are a seven piece Alternative Folk band (with hints of Alt Country and Blues) from the Gold Coast. Seven musical creatives who together have created something beautiful and encapsulating. Seven people who I think are just a little bit amazing. You can find out more about each member here.
These Idle Hands are:
Murray Webber – Vocals/Guitar & Banjo
Kieran Richardt – Slide Guitar & Banjo
Michael James – Piano & Double Bass
Lauren Illig – Violin
Josh Morris – Guitar/Vocals
Amaya Coburn – Vocals
Scott French – Drums/Recording Engineer
Track three, Blood Ties is by far one of my favourites from the album. The lyrics are just so completely brilliant.
“I keep my photos in an old camphor chest,
one my mother gave me when I was just twelve,
along with a pool cue and an old rusty sword,
my grandfather kept these things throughout the war,
I held them with warm tenderness,
the self indulgent guide to my truth,
to keep some connection to you…
But if I still bleed, you’re bleeding too.”
These resonate with me so much. Such a beautiful sentiment behind this song, these words. To be honest, I actually feel like quoting every single lyric from every single song on the album in this review and then that’s it, that’s my review. The words alone, stand on their own and hold their own as a huge part of the magic that is These Idle Hands. And I mean, in case you haven’t noticed, words are my thing. I am a writer. Since I was young, I have been fascinated by words and how I can express how I feel by writing things down. I wrote poetry, lyrics, stories and diary entries from a young age. So whenever I listen to music, I listen, and I mean really listen to the words, the lyrics. I love it.
Just Maybe is next. This one feels like a familiar friend. It feels comfortable. I listen to it and I feel like I have known this song for years. In fact, the whole album makes me feel a little like that. The harmonies in the vocals on this track are beautiful, they flow like a soft breeze on a warm summer’s day. Butterflies has a certain delicateness to it, like a butterfly itself. I am such a huge fan of a double bass paired with a violin and this song has those two instruments shine bright throughout. I find myself tuning in and focusing on them alone sometimes. Just beautiful.
Vision Board is another highlight for me. The casual “da da da da” in the background and then the steady and strong vocal with lyrics that, yet again, give so much, tell such a story. Personal, yet relatable. “I’m collecting gold stars on my meditation app…” The haunting sounds of the instruments, the echoing vocals, so sweetly harmonized and with layers of gravelly vocals too. Week About starts off more upbeat than the last track, there’s a positive light on this one. This one feels particularly relevant to current happenings. The lyrics, the mention of hoping things will be alright, the emotion in the track. “Everyone’s bunkering down, and when this over, will we reset our values? to what truly matters? will we carry on just being blind? whatever happens, we’ve got each other, and I can’t wait to see when it comes our week about and everything turns…”
Jerusalem Creek. The piano and guitars shine in this song. This one seems a love song of sorts. It’s heartfelt and almost feels like a dedication to someone; a commitment to love. The reference of dragonflies being “…like little helicopters…” makes me smile every time I hear it. There are intimate moments in this song “we make love, underneath the sun, the way your body feels, pressed against mine, the smell of smoke, in your hair, this is where the darkness ends, and we begin…” – just so beautiful. This line could be a part of a romance novel. Ironically rolling into the next track – Without Love – a sad song made sadder by the drawn out sounds from the violin and the shade brought in with the deep booming notes from the double bass and dark vocals.
Kitten Steps is next and oh my heart, this song makes me smile. It’s probably the most lighthearted song on the album. There is something kind of adorable about this song, like the title itself. This song features guest vocals from Linda Angledal whom Murray worked with on his previous musical project, Heron Blue. The alternating between Murray and Linda’s vocals – the light and the shade – it’s a delightful mixture. The “do do do do do do do, hey hey hey hey hey hey’s” are inviting to sing along to and though they are simple, they somehow have as much depth as some of the poetry in the songs, due to how they are delivered. This song makes me happy.
Petrichor, by far one of the main stand outs for me and of course, the title track. I kind of love that they saved this until the end. I think title tracks are often towards the beginning of an album. But saving this to the end feels right. I have spoken before about placement of songs on albums and EP’s and I feel it is of extreme importance. I feel as though These Idle Hands got the order of songs right with this album. Petrichor is such a beautiful word in itself, it has some kind of mystery around it. The definition of the word is ‘a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.’ Petrichor is welcomed, longed for, looked forward to. Just like this song being at the end of the album.
Petrichor is a song you simply must listen to, rather than have me try to explain it. It’s a story, clearly a very emotional and heavy story and one that is told in such a way that you feel almost like you were there too. There are even moments in Murray’s vocals where you can hear his voice quaver ever so slightly if you listen closely enough – the raw emotion hitting him, like it hits the listener.
The album closes with the sounds of crickets and insects singing into the night. On Dusk (Reprise) – and the listener’s journey is complete. For me personally, I don’t think there has been a single occasion where I don’t start the album again immediately after it ends.
‘Petrichor’ was recorded at Lovestreet Studios with Scott French and mastered at 12th and Vine Post with Paul Blakey. You can tune in to ‘Petrichor’ here. And I highly recommend that you do.
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