20 Sep 2019

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Second Prize - Album Review: The Heel Turn

30 Apr 2019 // A review by Peter-James Dries

My next review may seem ill-placed, in that Second Prize are a Melbourne-based band, and this is a New Zealand Music site.  But what is Wellington if not a waiting area for emigration to the land of more money and better weather.

We, reviewers and readers, like genres in reviews. It helps genre-fixed readers decide if they’re interested, when a writer’s impressions can’t. I mean, in this world where everyone has a platform for their opinions (whether they should or not), what importance can you place on the words of a reviewer. And you wouldn’t expect a purveyor of Black Metal to appeal to your K.D. Lang-loving girlfriend.

But genre isn’t always an easy thing to assign. In most cases, the failure to assign a genre is an indicator of how unique a band’s sound is. There is no comparison; they sound like them.

Second Prize are one of those bands. Their album The Heel Turn is not quite rock, not quite pop, a little bit of Country, a whole lot of Indie, and a liberal shaking of Crooner. Kind of like that one band with that one guy that brown-eyed Michael Jackson. Was that really twenty years ago?!

Suffice to say, it’s a style of music we haven’t seen in a generation and may not awaken again for another. Especially since what’s currently being sold to us are the sonic Temp directories of kids who have just discovered DAWs and think what they’re doing a) constitutes music and 2) is unique. 

Second Prize actually make real music, with real instruments, which is encouraging to see. We don’t want that skill to die out.  We’re going to need it someday. 

The melancholy they convey is from life experience and observation, not the inability to emotionally regulate and psychiatric medication. The songs are stories, not a string of buzzwords and slogans, mistaken as thematic when collected. I wonder if people these days will get it or relate.  

I like how the lyrics are vivid, painting cinematic dreamscapes across the mind's eye.  It's harder to connect this way, but when you do, it feels more rewarding. "I'm bored" doesn't begin to describe feeling disenfranchised by the disappointment that is suburban life (other than living it). But a description of the surroundings and circumstance like in Back to the Cul De Sacs lets you feel like you're there, you can connect, and for people like me, you can relate.

I like how the guitar is actually played with a bit of style and nuance, as opposed to thrashing the same old four chords. Listen how the riff feels ‘Sneaky’ on the track Sneak Around. Listen to how the instruments illustrate the jubilation in Try You On. Feel how you're floating and falling in Gravity.  

I like the backing vocals. They really bring album opener Headphones On home. Like a band's first song of the night, building the crowd up with the rising sound.

If you’re one of those ‘old people’ that went to Happy Mondays, or if you pine for a bit of easy-listening story-telling like the Brits used sell, back when the rest of the world liked Nirvana, then this is the record for you. I for one, enjoyed this back-step to better days.

Five stars of five.

You can find Second Prize's The Heel Turn on Spotify.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Second Prize

A week before he was due to start a month-long residency at a well-known Melbourne music venue, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dave Rogers broke his arm playing basketball.

Dave’s then-manager scrambled around frantically, asking every musician he knew if they were available to fill a slot. Recently relocated New Zealander John Palmer’s band The Raylenes, a fey indie pop band in the tradition of Belle and Sebastian, were.

Dave and his broken arm turned up to watch his replacements play. Thus began a series of collaborations that has so far lasted fifteen years, as the two musicians have played in each other’s bands, and in bands backing other artists together, ever since.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Second Prize


The Heel Turn
Year: 2019
Type: Album

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