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Gareth Thomas - Album Review: Fizzy Milk

07 Jun 2016 // A review by GrayVickers

The New Zealand sound is not something expressed in words. It’s an ineffable coat of paint that glosses over much of the music that has shaped our lives. When introducing our brothers and sisters from other lands to it, words simply do not cut it, instead we’re overjoyed to leap into our collection to show, rather than tell. To bring up great tracks from all over the country that, while all sounding different, have a ubiquitous similarity. Much like an accent, or slang, it exists without intent nor consciousness - it just exists. Which brings us to Gareth Thomas’ latest offering, Fizzy Milk. The Sophomoric offering from the Goodshirt keyboardist oozes that unmistakable yet impossible to define Kiwi sound, while exploring an incredibly deep well of textures and timbres that in one breath can take a listener around the musical world, then in the next, take them to the dairy at their favourite beach to get an ice cold L&P to cool down from the New Zealand summer heat. 

To describe Fizzy Milk in a word, can only be Effortless. The album marries rich and deep soundscapes with smoothly flowing melody with remarkable effortlessness. There is a great balance of simplicity and complexity in every song, At times we’re treated to a basic bass line, drum and vocal section, then eased into a world of synths, horns and guitars. What makes Fizzy Milk so fascinating, is that through all the complexities of the instrumentations, no song ever feels overfilled. In fact, quite the opposite, the album’s sound is incredibly spacious. Every texture is given its own space to exist within, without cluttering up the sound. 

The as a songwriter, Gareth Thomas has developed wealth of experience, not just with Goodshirt, but as a producer and collaborator since the early 2000’s. The breadth of his musical lexicon is truly on display with Fizzy Milk. Many artists can boast that no two songs sound the same, very few can boast that despite this, every song will carry the distinctive qualities that make them unique to that artist. Gareth maintains his own unique sound over this wide variety of pop tunes, whilst exploring genres and soundscapes throughout the length of Fizzy Milk

The front end album is loaded with great pop cuts, songs like All Eyes in The Room and Wallow are great examples of Fizzy Milk’s punchy pop writing. Well balanced arrangements and instrumentations give space to Gareth’s many voices, being in falsetto, in a deep drawl, or even through vocal pops, whistles and wurrs. The track I’d Like is the albums stand out song. Perfectly paced with layers of guitars and haunting counter melodies drive the album’s lead single. The song highlights Gareth’s proficiency for introducing small musical ideas into the fold at will only to pull them out and never let them reappear again, giving sections of the songs a complete uniqueness and helps revitalise extended motifs and build intensity over phrases that could, without the newly added dynamics, be flat and repetitive. Whether it’s with synths or guitar lines, Gareth is constantly breathing life into his musical ideas as each song evolves.

As the album progresses, Gareth begins introducing new musical ideas (and more horns!), allowing his deeper musical influences to shine in through his tracks. Songs like So Unbelievable draw on a Beetles-esque feel and it slows the album down to a cruising speed while Way Too Hot take us into the world of Reggae and Weird Fever take us into Disco realm. The deeper we dig into the record, the more we are treated to these remarkable genre mash-ups, taking what’s been done before and throwing a smattering of modern day pop styling over the songs to give them a modern touch. While at times these crossovers are a real treat, there are moments of near confusion. Songs like Way Too Hot seem almost too loosely held together by the threads of the genres the songs are crossing over between. What’s forgivable about this, is that and no time in Fizzy Milk does Gareth seem to step outside of his own capabilities. His performances are on point throughout the album and it’s clear he has a great understanding of the relationships between the instruments he’s creating with. In every track, his layers dance together wonderfully, leaving more than enough room for his vocals.

Vocally, this album is a treat. Fizzy Milk has some of the catchiest vocal hooks you will ever hear. Lyrically, Gareth stays away from the clichés and sings with honesty all the while adapting his vocal approach to each song to fix the tone of each individual song. As a stand out, Wide Wide Eyed is the best example of Gareth’s vocal prowess on the album. Switching between his regular voice and falsetto, whilst throwing in a few whistles here and there highlights perfectly how Gareth is able to balance sweet and genuine vocals with the playfulness that the music leans itself towards. Fizzy Milk is choc full of Gareth’s wonderful vocal play, using his voice as its own instrument at times and driving the songs at others. 

There’s no doubting that Fizzy Milk is coming from a positive place. It’s upbeat, it’s bouncing, it’s playful – it’s a feel good record. It belongs as much in the background at a family BBQ as it does as the soundtrack to an out of town road trip. It is much more than a record for Goodshirt fans. Gareth has transcended his previous incarnations with Fizzy Milk and delivered an outstanding piece of music that deserves to sit alongside New Zealand’s great pop contemporaries. 

Stand out Tune: I’d Like

Stand out Moment: Wallow Time: 3:10 – This a perfect example of the amazing combinations of sounds that Gareth produces. Multi layered voices playing off each other, small guitar arrangements counterbalancing over the top of the rhythm section.

Overall: 8.5/10  

 

About Gareth Thomas

Kiwi solo-artist Gareth Thomas is a master architect of indie pop simplicity. Whether it’s delivering the iconic singles Sophie and Buck It Up as part of legendary local act Goodshirt, or crafting clever computer-driven tunes under his own name, Gareth’s left of centre approach to a catchy hook has continued to evolve alongside his legacy as one of Aotearoa’s most innovative artists.

Gareth’s passion for songwriting, production and a hefty dose of experimentation began in the late 1990’s. While most local bands were spending their hard earned cents on studio recording time, Goodshirt looked to the future and officially became the first NZ band to record an album on a Pentium 486 PC, in a garden shed, and take it to the top of the charts. Gareth’s computer may be long gone, along with the shed, but his proudly DIY and ‘outside the box’ approach to music making continues to underpin his work.

Gareth released his debut solo album Lady Alien to critical acclaim late 2010, with the Dominion Post stating the album as “Kiwi indie pop at it’s best”. The single Google Song received an honourable mention at the annual International Songwriting Competition in 2010, which was followed up by another nod in 2016 with the single All Eyes In The Room, a cut from his follow up album, Fizzy Milk.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Gareth Thomas

Releases

Fizzy Milk
Year: 2016
Type: Album
Lady Alien
Year: 2015
Type: Album

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