It’s an impressive sequence of songs that, after an admittedly odd studio whiz intro, demonstrates exactly what a band needs to do to land themselves the coveted title of triple j darlings.
Considering that their last album Every Night The Same Dream was their first LP that failed to spawn any Hottest 100 appearances, this may well have been a conscious attempt at course correction. However, to be cynical about this would be self-defeating. GOOD MOOD is too impressive.
Not only do Ball Park Music know how to write a killer hook, they possess the artistry and emotional intelligence to dress it appropriately.
The musical DNA that the band embraces on their new album is comprised of various elements from ’90s indie, contemporary pop and radio rock. The interplay between these styles is generally subtle and successful.
The stuttering start of Exactly How You Are, involving a band member scrolling through guitar effects until a voice pipes up “not that one”, allows the listener a voyeuristic peek into the band’s creative process. It makes the recording feel live and raw; heightening the emotional impact of the song.
By including the ‘mistakes’ that would normally be edited out, the band can step past the traditional barriers that exist between artist and audience. It’s a play straight out of the ’90s rock handbook that brings an honesty to a track that otherwise might have been just a little too pop savvy for its own good.
However, genre pastiche can be risky business and Ball Park Music don’t escape entirely unscathed. There is an unusually frequent and blatant amount of Auto-Tune on GOOD MOOD. The most obvious, and indeed understandable occurrence, is on Frank.
Now firstly, let me be clear that the band is not using Auto-Tune because they can’t sing. They have chosen to use it as a studio effect. In recent times this approach has been utilised by various artists to create unique and otherworldly sounding vocals. Indeed, it’s quite possible that Frank is titled as a homage to Frank Ocean and the phenomenal way he used the technique on Blonde. However, the results on GOOD MOOD are not comparable and teeter between unnecessary and slightly annoying.
While it would be fair to characterise the first half of GOOD MOOD as housing the hits, it’s arguably the second half that is most impressive. Where the first half is tight, succinct and propulsive, the second is unusual, meandering and utterly beautiful.
It’s here that the band seems to let loose and express their more challenging musical ideas. They are capable of shimmering atmospherics, gorgeous guitar swells and unexpected dynamic shifts.
It’s truly absorbing stuff that highlights how much the group has grown since they first hit the scene almost a decade ago.
The slightly dissonant melodies and progressive rock dynamism of So Nice recall Radiohead circa The Bends; before they decided to eviscerate their own pop leanings. Dreaming of America adopts a more typical structure but emphasises dream-pop atmospherics and beautiful chiming guitars. It’s a gorgeous track that, despite its nostalgic subject matter and tone, manages to avoid feeling cloying.
The final track I Am So In Love With You is a colossal closer that will undoubtedly translate superbly in a live context. However, I found myself unable to shake the feeling that the song borrows in some meaningful ways from Neutral Milk Hotel’s In An Aeroplane Over The Sea. This definitely isn’t an attempt to throw shade, because at the end of the day I Am So In Love With You stands up on its own.
It’s a very different take on a much loved musical motif. If that’s a crime, then everyone is guilty. It also passes my personal test; despite being a long time fan of Neutral Milk Hotel I felt it was familiar and fresh at the same time. I immediately hit repeat on it.
In fact, that last sentiment may be the most important takeaway from GOOD MOOD. I came to it expecting some classy pop songs that would grab my attention. I thought it might be a sugar rush, and the first half of the album certainly delivers on that front.
However, I was surprised and impressed by how diverse and multifaceted the album as a whole proved to be. So sure, come for the first half, but as soon as the second half rolls around I think you’ll have a hard time leaving.
It’s that kind of a party when Ball Park Music are in such a (wait, don’t do it man) good mood.
Sorry, I’ll leave now.