I reviewed 14 albums for The Weekend Australian in 2016. Many of them were great, but the only five-star rating I awarded was to the below album, which was released in April. The full review follows.
It makes sense that artists get better with age, for with age comes experience and thus a greater palette of colours with which to paint becomes available. Yet in popular music — in rock ’n’ roll especially — the common narrative arc is for young bands to burn brightly with their early releases before eventually losing some of the energy, hunger and joy that brought them together to make music in the first place.
There are exceptions to this trend, of course, and Brisbane band Halfway is one of them. The Golden Halfway Record is the fifth album that this eight-piece band has released, and it is the third album in six years on which the band has exceeded its own high standards. Any Old Love earned 4½ stars on this page in 2014; it was a near-perfect collection of songs that prompted me to describe Halfway as one of Australia’s best rock bands.
And after careful consideration I can only conclude that this album is perfect, and that there can be no doubt that Halfway is among a handful of the most talented and consistent acts in operation. It’s a major statement to make about a band that most Queenslanders haven’t heard of, yet alone those who live in the country’s south and west, but all of the evidence can be heard in this sensational 11-song set.
Book-ended by a dramatic intro and outro, The Golden Halfway Record offers yet another significant stylistic leap for the performers and particularly for the primary songwriters, guitarists John Busby and Chris Dale. The progression from 2010’s An Outpost of Promise to Any Old Love was pleasing and commendable, but this is something else. Heard here is a band at the peak of its powers, to use a critics’ cliche, yet the most scarily impressive aspect of this ascent is that the octet may have only just passed base camp. One can only imagine the summit Halfway yet could reach.
The trouble with writing, recording and releasing a perfect album, of course, is that the task becomes even harder next time. But that’s for the band to worry about, not us. We listeners get the pleasure of living inside such exquisitely crafted rock songs. The album as a whole is so well plotted and paced that to pick single moments feels barely adequate, but to name just one, fifth track ‘Welcome Enemy’ is a new high-water mark.
It pulses with an effortless wisdom and depth that belies how hard it is to write music so affecting with the same old ingredients available to every rock band in the world. From front to back, The Golden Halfway Record is exactly what its title describes. It arrives with the highest possible recommendation, and an insistence that if you’ve ever enjoyed the combination of guitars, bass, drums, keys and vocals, you simply must hear this.
I also reviewed the below albums for The Weekend Australian in 2016. They are listed in chronological order, with the publication date and my rating noted in brackets.
- Ed Kuepper – Lost Cities (January; 4 stars)
- The Drones – Feelin Kinda Free (March; 4 stars)
- Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression (March; 4 stars)
- Explosions In The Sky – The Wilderness (April; 3.5 stars)
- The Dandy Warhols – Distortland (April; 3 stars)
- Witch Hats – Deliverance (July; 4.5 stars)
- Sacred Shrines – Come Down From The Mountain (July; 4.5 stars)
- Crystal Castles – Amnesty (I) (August; 3.5 stars)
- Sugar Army – Beast (September; 4 stars)
- REMI – Divas & Demons (September; 4.5 stars)
- Warpaint – Heads Up (October; 3.5 stars)
- The Panics – Hole In Your Pocket (October; 4.5 stars)
- The Peep Tempel – Joy (October; 4 stars)