The Sydney, Australia quartet, Bexley de Lion, have a sound and feel that is at once new and familiar. It's difficult to tell if it is pulling too heavily from their influences or if they really are breaking new ground. Even as I was listening, I was at a loss to pinpoint a single band they could have been influenced by. The band has said that Bon Iver is an influence, but I don't hear it in the music. Nor do I hear even a slight similarity to Bright Eyes, a comparison the band has heard before. Regardless of that fact, their sound is perfect. They began the way many bands do, planning only to record a single project. Before long, they found that they were a proper band and released their debut (Minus Heart) in late 2011. Where that EP was characterized by slower tempos and many minor chords, their latest effort, I Am The Great Wide Open, is full of energetic drums, bright banjos and tight harmonies.
Their songwriting process was a long one, taking the two years between releases to work out arrangements and record the five songs. While they recorded the drums in a studio, the rest of the instruments and vocals were recorded in houses, backyards, churches and even outhouses, giving I Am The Great Wide Open an open feel and unique tone.
I Am The Great Wide Open starts with "Country Song,” a song that touches on nearly every topic that good country music touches on: fear, loss and the human condition, while sonically set against a sprightly, boom-chuck rhythm. "Fishing" is a bit of a slow burn that picks up around the two-minute mark when the gang vocals begin and the feel of the song really opens up and feels more expansive. The acoustic-led, "In A Shed, In A Yard" feels and sounds like an Ivan & Alyosha song, full of harmonies, retro background vocals and a single trumpet. With a somewhat darker tone, "Danger" grounds the EP as it speaks of a nightmare or fever dream. Reverb-soaked guitars and mountainous drums further the experience of being lost without an easy escape. The final track, "Violence,” is another acoustic-led tune with sparse instrumentation that leads into a driving, raucous conclusion.
Oddly enough, for a band from Sydney, Australia, they've absolutely nailed alt-country or Americana, so there's that.
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