Leisure Coast by Shining Bird

Leisure Coast by Shining Bird


There’s always this perception – legitimate or not – that Australians are shortchanged when it comes to discussion of serious, groundbreaking music. Sure, a handful of talented rock bands and electronic acts have made a splash on the global stage, but nobody ever credits them for exceptional originality or particular resonance with the characteristic laid-back, sporting culture of the Aussies.


Shining Bird, fresh off the beaches of their native New South Wales, aims to change that. Their impressive debut Leisure Coast is full of retrospective homages to a handful of 80s and 90s electronica and pop from Down Under. The sheer range and depth of this treatise keeps you guessing, betraying unquestionable talent and a nuanced understanding of what worked in decades gone by. It certainly demolishes the first impression that these guys are amateur, good-natured surfer dudes undertaking a side-project for a few laughs. But the Wollongong-based five-piece are for real, even if their sense of humor is wacky enough to be considered “indie”.


#1. Terra Nullius 6:16
#2. Distant Dreaming 5:43
#3. Must Have Been Dreaming 5:23
#4. Keep Warm 7:47
#5. Don’t Get Down 5:47
#6. You Won’t Feel A Thing 4:17
#7. Stare Into The Sun 6:57
#8. Last Wave 4:38


Russell Webster: Keyboard, Synths
Alastair Webster: Guitars
Dane Taylor: Guitars, Vocals
Riccardo Quirke: Drums
Nathan Stratton: Bass
James Kates: Percussion


Shining Bird


6th September, 2013


Distant Dreaming


Even if you’re not one for stupor-laced gentle pop (You Won’t Feel A Thing), one or two cuts should catch your fancy regardless of genre inclinations or mood dispositions. The boys describe their music as “valium pop”, which is apt enough for a twitter handle but also a gross understatement. A more fitting description of a typical Shining Bird song, if that was even possible, would run something like this: a relaxing faux-baritone cart that guides you through a psychedelic amusement park of slow, rhythmic street melodies, ambient textures, and old-school harmonies.


That being said, Leisure Coast does have a couple of tracks with more universal appeal, although their strategy of compartmentalizing influences rather than blending them willy-nilly is a sound one. Must Have Been Dreaming for example, is Michael Learns To Rock in their heyday, full of sweeping keys, easy bass, and stabs of glam-rock guitar. It’s only at the halfway mark that the mates bring the Massive Attack undercurrent to the fore, allowing the rest of the track to bask in its own ingenuity with an extended instrumental finish.


But as a listener, it’s probably easier to soak in a recognizable vibe than to weave through the signposts with precision. That may be why lead single Distant Dreaming is garnering so much blogosphere hype, even though the ephemeral and complex Stare Into The Sun has more to offer in the long run.


Which isn’t to say that Distant Dreaming is undeserving of its praise: when was the last time an early-90s dancepop template was used to promote environmental activism? “I know,” mutters Taylor repeatedly in a self-reassuring fashion, “things can get better, but there are changes in the weather you can’t define.” Backed by sharp live percussion and a pounding bassline, the eclectic palate of sunny acoustic guitars and snippets of folk twangs and disco-funk licks is complemented beautifully by a classy saxophone coda near the end. It’s impossible not to dig this one immediately, and even harder to avoid unconsciously foot-tapping when it plays for the millionth time on your favorite playlist. (The video is just as inspired: shot completely in analog, with low-budget effects and ironic dancing girls to boot. And I haven’t even mentioned the kangaroo with speaker-eyes!)


In Terra Nullius for example, romantic balladeering a la Spandau Ballet gradually makes way for the easy rock of Pink Floyd, which then transforms into an even more awesome blend of organic Depeche Mode and Radiohead.


Some may find the regular doses of double-entendre and sarcasm to be off-putting, kind of like the douche-y singer that implicitly makes fun of a paying audience at his/her live show. Keep Warm, for instance is a feel-good number about surviving a nuclear winter – not exactly the sort of thing you would pay to bounce to at Lollapalooza, unless you were (a) moronic, or (b) doubly ironic, (i.e. even more douche-baggier than the artist). It does calm you down though, I guess in the same way that the prospect of a zombie apocalypse is more appealing to some of us than facing down the next deadline.





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