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There’s a few things out there that are actually depressing, making clouds out of sunny skies. Melbournians would love to tell you that happens to them every day, but that’s just because they’re so starved of everything they have to turn changes of weather into a badge of honour. Lontalius makes music that you definitely shouldn’t crack on at the end of a day in which you had found $50 in a bin; his music is in both senses rather downbeat.
Wellington’s Lontalius throws his hat in the ring of indie electronica that has ruled supreme in recent years, maintaing the legacy of downbeat that artists like Chet Faker have created.
Not far in terms of sound or lyrics, Lontalius – his mum calls him Edward Johnston – could really be perceived as the New Zealand equivalent of the Iceland-based American John Grant. First of all, there’s the actual music. Soft, slow, wistful indietronica; a selection of sounds that’s crash hot right at this very moment, perhaps too crash hot if that’s possible. Chet Faker’s doing it, London Grammar and Chrvches are sort of doing it, Bjork might have touched on it. That sort of thing.
In Comfortable, for instance, after the interesting intro, the song settles into a plateau of wind chimes while Johnston more or less tells a story, the moral being that he’s sorry. That’s pretty much the same in All I Wanna Say, a song that in being more upbeat converges with the style of Chet Faker.
There’s also Light Shines Through Dust, which apart from having a chord shared by Stairway to Heaven’s verses, is rather busier. There’s some strumming, obviously, as well as rising and stirring piano work that Chris Martin and Coldplay so brilliantly nail in their best songs.
This might come as a surprise, but Johnston isn’t Chris Martin. That’s really no criticism, because that man is a genius and I’m not Hunter S. Thompson either (I’m not even Shayen de Silva). Being mopey and sad in music such as this needs to have a rich sonic tapestry in the background, or emotionally-dense chords, to truly work and not just come off as a whine. Having a whine is great, but there’s a reason you seldom honestly answer a “How are you?”,“How’re you going?” or a “‘sdoin?” It’s a struggle to give a shit about other people’s emotions, and Johnston moaning about failed relationships and putting it on tape doesn’t make it any easier.
John Grant, mentioned only a few paragraphs ago, also suffers from being too lyrically intense. Despite his rather dire predicament – struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality and a failed relationship, and suffering from AIDS – his comparably direct didaction, recorded, again doesn’t make it any easier to listen to. Rather, his more appealing music makes it easier to bear his misery; he may wallow (and rightly so), but his accompanying sounds don’t necessarily join him.
Having said that though, Johnston’s project seems on the up-and-up, recording rather healthy listening numbers on Soundcloud. His music, while it may not great, is very Spotifiable – pop it on in the background, enjoy its fleeting existence – and that seems to be rather good enough for today. And Spotify is indeed a great service.
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