Skipping Girl Vinegar : Keep Calm, Carry The Monkey
Chase The Sun - the opening song on Skipping Girl Vinegar's sophomore album, Keep Calm, Carry The Monkey - is also a phrase that aligns with the record's hopeful sentiment. Lined in glistening melodies and choral harmonies, Chase The Sun is as blissfully evocative as it is openly expressive - when frontman Mark Lang sings "feel the spray off Buckley's cave and slip beneath the rock pool waves ... in the tide you will find the things you hold inside", it's just one of many familiar and well-loved city/scenic locales referenced throughout the album.
Whereas Chase The Sun flourishes with a choral-pop grandeur, its follow-up You Can is sublimely restrained until culminating in a poignant string accompaniment. Meanwhile, the surprisingly bombastic Hand To Hold unleashes into a stomping alt-country/searing folk-rock jam that's defined by its elegiac strings and pleading vocals (particularly memorable is the witty cry of "all your time on Friendface left you feeling low").
Whether it's the poignancy of everyday moments or the seeking of freedom/redemption in the isolated towns and swamplands, Skipping Girl Vinegar narrate unique tales through evocative instrumentation. The Melbourne quintet's second album enters more explorative stylistic territory than their debut album, Sift The Noise (2008). Despite the band's frequent shifts between choral/chamber pop, folk, rock and alt-country, its diversity is more emblematic of impassioned playfulness rather than experimental revelation. It explains why the fuzz-rocker Wasted is undeniably infectious but sounds slightly misplaced. Skipping Girl Vinegar are much more concerned about delivering intimate, melodious tales of a resonating emotional potency.
An album standout is its piano/banjo/string-laden closer Heart Does Ache - a graceful and beautifully emotive ballad in which the quintet are joined by legendary Canadian singer-songwriter, Ron Sexsmith. Produced by Mark, Nick Huggins (Seagull, Kid Sam), Caleb James (Yves Klein Blue) and Greg Arnold (Georgia Fields, Stonefield) - and mixed by Brad Jones in Nashville - Keep Calm, Carry The Monkey is complimented by additional string and horn players (The Ramblin' Hobos) as well as an extensive choir (Ramblin' Hobo Choir). Skipping Girl Vinegar's sophomore album is also a rare offering in that the record was not only funded by their loyal fan-base - through the Hobo Philanthropy initiative - but the meticulously-crafted album packaging features creative cut-outs, embossed files and storyboard images.
Skipping Girl Vinegar write affecting, evocative tales that are inspired by the beauty of our local landscapes and the longing that pervades everyday life - endearingly, Keep Calm, Carry The Monkey exhibits the art of nursing heartache with a gallant hopefulness.
Best Track: Heart Does Ache
If You Like These, You'll Like This: Sift The Noise SKIPPING GIRL VINEGAR, Retriever RON SEXSMITH, Stories For Another Day DUCKDIVE
In A Word: Heartfelt