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The rise of The Jezabels has been stop-start. After a trilogy of self-released introductory EPs, the Sydney four piece's debut album, Prisoner, finally arrived in 2011 as a dark storm of tortured guitar pop self-dubbed, rather painfully, 'intensindie' - though the band have since, probably wisely, distanced themselves from this description. Follow up The Brink was met with a more muted reception, and dismissed in many quarters as evidence that the band had fallen prey to second album syndrome; perhaps explaining their self-conscious attempts at experimentation this time around. Yes, the pun which lends Synthia its name is indicative of that well-worn change of direction for guitar bands with something to prove - often recognizable from the disconcertingly vague noises that come out of studios about 'incorporating electronic elements' and 'experimenting with synths'. The title's their mission statement: on this, their third album, The Jezabels have Gone Electronic. Or, at least, that's what we're supposed to think. It soon becomes clear, though, that Synthia - despite sharing its name with the world's first lab-created species - is more business as usual for these gloomy rockers than it is a pioneering work of art rock futurism.
The first seconds of the opener 'Stand And Deliver' make the supposed change of direction quite clear, before the bubbling electronic arpeggios give way to a martial drum beat in a synthesis which brings to mind Zach Condon's Magnetic Fields-influenced flirtations with electronica. And, from then on, the stage is set. The arrangements here are dressed in shimmering keyboards and crackling electronic beats, but by the time the pace has picked up and Hayley Mary's piercing, soaring vocals have crescendoed to the edge of hysteria, as on 'My Love Is My Disease', it's apparent that the band are pressing on with the dynamic formula which has made them stars and ARIA award winners in their homeland. And more power to them, because while Synthia may not be as experimental as its titling would have us believe, it still offers moments of the hair-prickling melodrama for which the band are acclaimed.
The juxtaposition between the dark pop songwriting sensibilities and electronic production accessorising - not unwelcome, not particularly valuable either - is nowhere more apparent than on lead single 'Come Alive'. Beginning with a synth bass part which abruptly stops before reappearing beneath the grungy guitars on which the song is built, you're left with an impression of disparate elements being placed next to and on top of one another, rather than a seamless stylistic blend. Many of the songs here follow this blueprint: a conspicuously electronic opening which soon sinks back into a conventional rock song, punctuated by the odd awkward relapse. Not to say that this has a detrimental effect on the band's ability to hit the dramatic heights which are their speciality - there are sweeping choruses and giddy climaxes aplenty here. For the most part, Synthia leaves you with the feeling that, for now at least, the band are still better when they're doing what they do best than on their tentative, if admirable, forays into new(ish) territory.
With their second album 'The Brink' having been recently released in the UK, we spoke to The Jezabels' lead singer Hayley Mary as the band prepare to head out on tour once again. Having previously taken a break from the world of touring after a bad case of land-sickness, the group are well and truly ready to reach their fans live once again.
The Jezabels spoke to us about the trials and tribulations of being on the road, getting bad reviews and adapting their music for live shows.
Contactmusic: Your new album 'The Brink' is out in the UK today, what can you tell us about that?
Hayley Mary: I think it's a little shorter than our last album, I think it's a little bit more optimistic, warmer, possibly a little bit more poppy and concise. The themes we touched on were gender and romance which are things I tend to be attracted to but I think moving to London and writing this record kind of made us a bit more aware of the world and world issues and the things that the UK has in contrast to Australia. It's colder and harder here, it's less isolated, there's class issues and they're inherent, there's immigration and there's people coming from places where I can't even imagine how hard it is. There's just a hell of a lot more going on in every way and I think there's also a sort of cynicism that I had not encountered in such quantity before, living here. I think that affected the record quite a bit. I think everyone expected to write a darker record but I think we made a lighter record, a more upbeat, positive record as a result of feeling a little bit overwhelmed by the issues of the world.
Continue reading: The Jezabels - Interview
2012 Australian Music Prize winners The Jezabels released their new single 'City Girl' on May 14th 2012 on Play It Again Sam Recordings (Editors, Seasick Steve, Soap & Skin, Zulu Winter). The single is taken from their debut album 'Prisoner' which went straight into the Australian charts at number two. Their popularity seems to be spreading overseas as they hit the UK for tours and festivals.
Continue: The Jezabels - City Girl
The Jezabels' new single, Rosebud, is the lead single from their debut full length album Prisoner, which will be released in the US on April 3rd through Mom + Pop. The band will be touring North America throughout April and May 2012, along with Benjamin Francis Leftwich and Imagine Dragons.
Continue: The Jezabels - Rosebud
The Jezabels' new single, 'Endless Summer', is the lead track taken from the Australian band's debut studio album 'Prisoner', which was released in Australia on September 16th 2011 and shot immediately to number 2 on the Australian iTunes chart. Endless Summer is out now in the UK via Play It Again Sam Recordings. The Jezabels have announced a one off gig at London's Heaven on November 29th.
Continue: The Jezabels - Endless Summer
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AUS: If you haven’t heard ‘The Others’ yet head to ‘Best of The Week’ & ‘A-List: Alternative’ playlists - thanks @AppleMusic for including.
Happy birthday captaintook from https://t.co/5MIBj24yyo who are playing with us thelansdowne next week. It's… https://t.co/qU6P0j7GKd
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