There is very little that I am about to say which would come as a surprise to the die-hard fans of Fran Gibson and Stephen O’Neil. For nearly thirty years, the Australian duo’s illustrious career has set the bar for what can truly be considered “indie.”
Some may still think the label “Indie” is reserved for anything Radiohead releases; and if that is you, I suggest you stop reading because I heard Adele is working up to another Grammy performance, you’d better go wait for it.
For those looking for truly indie, then The Cannanes, if you haven’t already discovered them, is the Holy Grail.
Yes, Indiana Jones, this is the biggest thing you won’t hear about in major music news. The Cannanes are back, after over eleven years with the incredibly well done, six-track EP, Small Batch.
The journey Small Batch takes you on is the most wonderful trip I’ve had in a very long time. The richly layered, visionary EP incorporates new and old while maintaining a dignified rolling progression.
Gibson and O’Neil strike gold six times over. From the echoing guitar plucking spun around a vintage organ breakdown on “Bumper” to the “Eye” like echo of “Crawler,” from the jazzy undertones of “Molecule” to the lo-fi folksiness of “Tiny Compartment,” these Aussies make multi-layered grace and mastery look easy and beautiful. There is something to be said about someone who can sing with a beautiful ethereal tone, making you feel completely lost in the melodies while singing “let’s break bottles/lets jump off chairs.” And then, in a genius stroke, Small Batch culminates on “Zone.” With one track, The Cannanes make you forget everything Thievery Corporation, or any downtempo or samba inspired DJ, has done. The elegantly funky electronic finale leaves you in stunned admiration.
I find myself coming back to Small Batch immediately after it is finished. Like a magnet to your inner audiophile, you cannot get away from its pull.
As old, maybe older, than most that will read this, the career of The Cannanes has taken them around the world, through several albums and connected them with millions of people. And this was all done without ever having had a manager, agent, or a recording deal.
Your move Radiohead.
I am always interested when a band that has a career arc that is longer than the age of most up-and-coming musicians puts out a new record. Generally because I see the music going one of two ways: 1) the album sounds stuck in time, or 2) the artists come out and say “hang on kids, let me show you how this is done.” The Cannanes, indie lifers since 1984, are the latest to try this experiment. While their EP, Small Batch, is reminiscent of a previous era, it is still a clinic on how to write one hell of an indie-pop album.
The six track EP is a hybrid of lo-fi indie and everything right about the electronic movement of the late 90s; its feet firmly planted in both camps. Breathy and distant vocals and muted guitars are offset by a myriad of keyboard effects: from harpsichord, to sci-fi beeps and chimes, to electronic drum beats. Four-chord progressions make songs like “Tiny Compartment” so addictive that they rattle around your head at all hours of the day. Small Batch ends on the horns and electronic-heavy “Zone” which would have felt right at home on Groove Armada’s Vertigo.
Every time I put on this album, I am shocked at how some musicians just make this look easy. With a few decades of putting records under their belts, the Cannanes show that blending the eras together in a hooky package still works. It takes an understanding of where you have been and what the current landscape looks like. Check out Small Batch, because these musicians have a big ol’ map.