“It has been a long time since guitar, bass and drums sounded this good,” said Inpress Magazine of Knievel’s ‘Steep Hill Climb’ album, and on their latest, they are sounding better than ever.
You’re forgiven if you don’t know Knievel — it’s been over a decade since this Australian four-piece released a record in the U.S. But if you’re a fan of impeccably tasteful indie-pop you might not forgive yourself for overlooking this collection of understated gems.
Through the Rainbow Dark is the fifth album from these Sydneysiders, and it continues an unbroken run of should-be hits —soft-spoken slow-burners both sunny and wistful. They’ve frequently earned comparisons to the halcyon days of New Zealand’s iconic Flying Nun roster. They’ve toured Australia supporting Death Cab For Cutie and the Posies’ Ken Stringfellow and bandleader Wayne Connolly has made a name for himself producing #1 albums by bands like Youth Group, Boy and Bear, Paper Kites, The Vines, and You Am I.
This album, released in America on New High Recordings, has all the hallmarks of Knievel’s finely honed indie-pop sensibilities — the subtle interplay of guitar parts and Connolly and bassist Tracy Ellis’ harmonies building to a powerful crescendo. It’s the perfect distillation of what Beat Magazine described as the band’s “uncanny sense of melodic progression and resolution.”
Released in Australia last year as Emerald City on the legendary Alberts label (home to homegrown legends AC/DC and Gotye, among others) the record has already racked up considerable critical acclaim. And it’s easy to see why.
On “The Time I Found My Feet,” Connolly presents a beautifully realized vignette of growing up, in the tradition of the Go-Betweens. On “This Is The Time,” a touching duet about a couple in turmoil, Knievel invited friend Lara Meyerratken (Ben Lee, Luna, Nada Surf) to add a guest vocal to great effect.
The album’s depth is apparent on first listen, and it’s hard choosing new favorites; “Mirrored Hall” calls to mind a space jam between Interpol and the Stone Roses, while “New Light” evokes a kind of weary optimism with an alt-country feel.
Connolly modestly describes the songs as built on “simple down-stroking guitar work where the riff is built into the chords”, characteristically underplaying the effectiveness of the songcraft.
Lyrically, Through The Rainbow Dark still draws on the warm-hearted melancholy that has endeared Knievel to a generation of fans. The title is borrowed from a Ted Hughes poem. With the American release of the record, it’s difficult not to imagine that circle of fans expanding ever further. Vinyl Release July 31, 2015.