Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Sleepy Jackson - Personality (One Was a Spider, One Was a Bird) [Astralwerks, 2006]

Add Luke Steele's name to the list of five people you'll meet in heaven. Then scratch off all the rest.

Personality, the second album by Australia's The Sleepy Jackson, is heaven encompassed in thirteen songs. This is the music of mountaintops. Grand. Sweeping. Epic. The album opens on the most fragile of wisps, Luke's almost-whispered vocal floating on a gentle summer breeze, and then explodes into the most bombastic stomp this side of ELO. The vessel is shattered, but Jeff Lynne's prints are all over the glass. As you ascend farther into the clouds, the familiar sounds of George Harrison's slide guitar and Phil Spector's wall-of-sound production serenade and reassure your weary soul. The devil may be in your yard, but you don't have a care in the world.

And what's that up ahead? God may be leading your soul, but Brian Wilson is directing his choir of angels. Stop along the path for a brief respite and, at first sound, you'll think heaven has a disco. But I just don't agree. A bit of pensively dark twang follows and will have you wondering if those religious Celibates were on to something. If only you had your Rifle. As you reach the highest of peaks, you can safely declare yourself "Higher Than Hell." Shout into the chasms and canyons below and listen as the sound echoes in harmonies so gorgeous they rival The Beatles' "Because." Now kick back to your eternal rest, a soft pillow of strings creating a score to accompany your dreams.

In short, this path to heaven is paved with the same mix of lushness and power that has characterized such great orchestral pop albums as All Things Must Pass, Eldorado, and Skylarking. Luke is the latest torchbearer in a grand tradition stretching back to the days of Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds. Teenage symphonies to God, indeed.

Eddie Money and Pat Robertson are still sitting outside the gate, tickets in hand. Luke can get you in.
-jOhn A.

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