Extraordinary New Album from Aussie Indie Folk-Rockers, Husky

11 Feb

With some artists, their creativity runs deep — to the very core of their being. They see and feel things others recognize, but don’t absorb in the same way — the glistening of the dew on a spider web, the taste of a fresh-picked berry, a breath of wind through the pines, or recalling that feeling when your hopeful gaze was returned by that special someone across the high school dance floor. These are intense, highly personal senses.

I’ve never met Husky Gawenda, lead singer/songwriter of the Aussie folk-rock band, Husky. But from his song lyrics and integral connection with this thing we call life, I can tell he’s a uniquely perceptive artist. And we get to bask in his artistry with every song Husky plays.

Husky’s second album, Ruckers Hill, was released in Australia in October 2014. It will finally make its way to Europe, the UK and US this April. In support of the album’s Aussie release, Tone Deaf — a leading online music publication in Australia — interviewed Gawenda. Here’s how Gawenda described the album opener, “Ruckers Hill,” in that publication.

“For four years I lived in Northcote, Melbourne, with a girl, in a house, with a big back garden and a sunny front porch, in an old rambling falling apart cottage full of charm and dust and mint growing up through the window sills and little spiders hiding in the corners.

“We used to walk, at night, up to the top of Ruckers Hill, where we could see the city sparkling in the distance, arm in arm, talking of our future as if it were certain, as if it already existed. That time is gone now. And yet I search for it still. For that time, that place, those dreams of the future, those city lights shining in the night.”

This type of perceptiveness and insight permeates the 13-song set on Ruckers Hill, an early candidate to be one of the top indie albums of 2015.

Husky’s indie folk-rock spans a range of sonic territory from the Fleet Foxes to early Simon & Garfunkel, with even a taste of psyche-rock or jazz thrown in. But every step of the way, there’s no hint that this band is a copy of anything. Husky is an original — with extraordinary songwriting, precise arranging and production, and strong vocalists who are able to create the richest harmonies, track after track.

The 13 songs on “Ruckers Hill” were reportedly culled from 50 compositions written for the album, and it sounds like it — every song is outstanding.

The album starts with the title track, with its leisurely recollections of Husky’s time on Ruckers Hill. The song shifts into a romp with about 90 seconds to go, making for a high-energy finish.

The next track is “Saint Joan,” a great single that was placed at #4 in 2014 by Rolling Stone Australia. It features jangly guitar over a fast-paced indie pop melody, with all kinds of hooks and impossibly lush harmonies.

Track 3, “Heartbeat,” has more of a traditional folk-rock sound with fingerpicked and strummed guitars and playful piano. A railroad-riding rhythm kicks in following a reference to a train. Great “storytelling” lyrics throughout. “I thought I saw a vision of my youth/In the rearview mirror while I was looking for the truth.”

The first single off Ruckers Hill was “I’m Not Coming Back.” It’s a great, melodic pop song about escaping and not returning. Crisp guitar. Sharp, upbeat rhythm. Lots of interesting shifts in the melody.

Speaking of shifts, track 8, “Wild and Free,” manages to go from airy folk ballad with an angelic chorus and strings at the start of each stanza — to bigger, more experimental sections with pounding, Gershwin-like jazz piano riffs. Again, this is not your father’s folk…

The album closes with “Deep Sky Diver,” a song whose heartfelt melody and instrumentation definitely recalls early Simon & Garfunkel. Very sweet and pretty.

There’s more — much more —so much so that I may feature the album over two Fridays on my show on KZSU Stanford. Tune in to hear it — so you’re ready when Husky finally releases Ruckers Hill wherever you are.

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