Originally published in The AU Review.
The transition from acoustic to electronic is often an inevitable one. It’s a common shift for acoustic instrumentalists who want to explore new sonic possibilities and challenge traditional paradigms. In her debut LP Harvest Of Gold, Melbourne singer-songwriter Gossling moves away from the folk-driven aesthetic of her previous EPs and implants a new seed into her music.
Ditching the acoustics for electric guitars, drum machines and keyboards, Gossling’s debut sounds less like an Australian folk record and more like a pop one. Her instruments may have changed since her last release, but Harvest still contains that strange idiosyncratic voice and those profound lyrics we as an audience fell in love with three years ago. Stitching together all of the familiar and unfamiliar aspects of Gossling’s music, Harvest is a symbol of demarcation between what Gosling’s music was and where it’s heading.
It doesn’t take a triple j addict to be able to recognise a new Gossling song before it’s identified as one. We all know that voice, that eerie child-like intonation mixed with an adult’s wisdom. She’s the less annoying daughter of Sarah Blasko and the Australian cousin of Sweden’s Lykke Li. Her voice may be distinctive across her entire repertoire, but her use of instruments in this particular record is definitely a surprise. ‘Never Expire’ is a real dark synth-pop track and ‘Challenge’ – despite its melancholy lyricism – is almost a disco song.
The electric piano compositions in tracks like ‘Harvest Of Gold’ and ‘Songs of Summer’ are incredibly pretty and delicate. The only instrumental downer in the entire album are the drums. Throughout, the rhythms really don’t change much and they’re all quite feeble. I’m all for minimalism, but versatility was definitely missed on the drum kits here. Although new and exciting for Gossling no doubt, the music isn’t exactly original or particularly memorable when placed against the backdrop of the Australian indie scene. Although a smooth sonic transition, it’s not the sounds on Harvest that will be remembered, but the storytelling.
Collectively, her debut LP is hardly a joyous one. The title track and ‘Songs of Summer’ are about inevitable loss and temporary love. ‘Vanish’ is a response to the death of Jill Meagher and a reflection on the illusion of safety and ‘Pulse’ is infested by paranoia and anxiety. Oh and ‘A Lovers’ Spat’ reeks of damaged love and broken hearts. Comforting it may not be, this is where Gossling excels. Her voice is uncanny; it only makes sense for her lyrics to be creepy. In saying that, her voice can only do so much; it’s her lyrics and acute storytelling that really gets those little hairs rising and those tears rolling. In the title track, Gossling equates love with a harvest, a rather pessimistic analogy which signifies the inevitable expiration of both: “Oh harvest lover/cut when we’re grown…it’s temporary love for you and me.” Yikes! Hardly an image for idealistic young Gatsby’s of the world. In ‘Challenge’ she sings “Feeling down is a constant pull I’m never gonna see it disappear” and in ‘Big Love’ we hear “Big loves are the ones who let you down/but the little ones, never fill you up.” Yeah, maybe chuck out your razor blades before pressing play on this record. Having said all this, Harvest shouldn’t be labelled a mopey downer of a release. It’s not a letter of complaint; it’s a reflection of universal and unisex truths and experiences. It’s basically a reality check for the delusional.
Gossling has equated the routine of a harvest with the routine of love. It grows, it flourishes, it reaches its peak and then it’s cut, it’s destroyed. The following season, it goes through the exact same routine and so on and so forth. There’s the illusion of the harvest of gold, the illusion of love, the illusion of safety, security, etc. By illusion, I mean the illusion of believing in the permanent. Jill Meagher thought she was safe, she wasn’t. Gossling thought the songs of summer were going to last forever, they didn’t. Ironically, Harvest is anything but disillusioned. Yes, it may be cynical and disheartening, but it is spot on in its narrative of truth. Fine songwriting indeed.
Review Score: 7.8 out of 10.