Warning: May contain epic sounds.

The Jezabels- “Endless Summer”

“Prisoner”, 2011

The overdue and highly highly anticipated debut album from Sydney band The Jezabels finally arrived in September 2011. And what an album it was. It snatched up Record of the Year from Rolling Stone Magazine and ended up winning the Australian Music Prize. It’s been a good year, really.

Endless Summer is the debut single off the album, and it’s a pretty epic snippet of the entire album- dramatic, soaring, layered and incredibly dynamic alternative rock.

From the first beats we’re swept in. Thumping tom drums and highly affected guitar open the song, and by the third bar the keyboard has entered the fray and we are suddenly twisting and turning underneath the wave of sound. It’s highly produced, loud, and completely overwhelming. The keyboards (Heather Shannon) and drums (Nik Kaloper) hammer out the pulse, whilst the guitar (Sam Lockwood) creates continuous reverb-laden sounds above, the notes bending in and out of pitch and earshot. The drums are heavy on the cymbals and floor toms, the keyboards and guitar heavy with echo. The result is an intense, spin cycle of sound.

And then suddenly we are spat out above the white water and into the verse. Hayley Mary’s smooth, low vocals, soaked in reverb, have arrived. The guitar plays muted notes, the drums pull back to scattered hi- hats and a thudding kick drum and the keyboard is a constant in the background, holding it all together. It’s quiet, understated, we’re now floating serenely on the surface.

It’s not long though, until we’re sucked under again by the surge of noise underneath. Mary’s vocals soar up with the crashing guitars and drums (which give a roll at the end of every line, just in case you forgot they were there). The keyboards are the constant, ethereal sound in the back, complementing Mary’s twisting, climbing vocals and surreal lyrics: “In my mind, you’re the ephemeral night“. Every fourth beat is like a punch to the ears, the instruments uniting to form a solid pulse that anchors the song to the ground even when it seems it might spin out of control. It’s an aural whirlpool that we’re in the middle of.

We’ve now been spat out onto a rock in the middle of the swell, saved for a moment by the return of the verse. The extreme dynamic change works from both angles- the soft becomes softer, the choruses an incredible crescendo.

The second chorus is the wave that knocks us back into the deep water. The rushing power of the drums (played on nearly beat) guitars (how much reverb can we handle??), almost compete with the vocals, which ride above, barely keeping hold. The bridge backs off, but thuds with tension. It builds and builds and builds until the last chorus fills our ears with salt water and spits us up onto the sand, we’re we now lie, wondering what the hell was with that last four minutes?

It’s the kind of sound that you close your eyes and just listen, because it isn’t about the lyrics, or the individual instruments. It’s the deeply layered sound-scape they build and weave. Listen with full volume and you’ll understand.

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