Whenever a music act is named like an individual, I always feel a need to point out when it's actually not. Miss Elm is a fun four-piece band from Brisbane, Australia, that makes me want to throw an eternal tea party and invite them over for biscuits or crumpets or whatever Aussies eat at such events. I'm glad Miss Elm is a four-piece band because being stuck in an eternal tea party with one person would be mad boring. At least with four people you can delay the insanity.
Miss Elm's main draw is the soda-pop vocals of Erin Harrington, a sugary soul who fizzes, flattens and bubbles with emotion. She can do vocal jazz and radio-friendly pop and always guarantees anybody can get into the music. Harrington also plays piano, keyboard, organ AND the ukulele, so I'm guessing she has to keep changing phone numbers and addresses to avoid the marriage proposals she receives. Miss Elm's other quarters are James Peeters on drumming duties, James Lord on bass and regular guitar as well as glockenspiel (that metal xylophone thing that makes you think of bedtime and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star") and toy piano, and finally Lucinda Bopf on backing vocals, flute and melodica, which is a handheld piano you play by blowing into a mouthpiece, the cherry on top of a cake made with tasty twee ingredients.
That said, it's unfair to simply call their album Idle Away twee music and play it for the Zooey Deschanel in your life. Miss Elm blends tonal colors of jazz, bubblegum pop and post-punk, with just a shade of psychedelia brushed in for good measure. Going off the cake metaphor, the music is loaded with sugary sweet notes, frosted with memorable hooks and the thick but light-hearted rhythm section is the raspberry filling in the middle. Consider the tap-danceable "Baby Song,” where pulsing bass and grainy percussion lead in Harrington's controlled squeal of "Gonna have your babies.” It's a fun chorus that captures the band's playful approach to songwriting.
Make no mistake, though, the ambitions of Miss Elm are heard on every track. A quieter number like "Adelaide" uses springtime flute and Harrington's bittersweet whispers until almost-punk drumming leads the music into more mature territory and Harrington begins hitting Everest-high notes. Playful, poignant and Australian. What more do you need on a four-track EP?
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