Kate Miller-Heidke – Circular Breathing

Sometime in mid-2004, Kate Miller-Heidke released her self-financed and self-distributed debut EP ‘Telegram’.  This release displayed only part of the potential that Miller-Heidke had to offer.  Close to two years later, Miller-Heidke is back with her highly anticipated second EP, ‘Circular Breathing’.

In listening to this album, it is quite amazing to see how far Miller-Heidke has come in this short period of time.  Whereas ‘Telegram’ came across as a release from a performer who hadn’t quite figured out the direction she wanted to take, and hadn’t quite worked out how to transpose her opera training into the folk/pop world, ‘Circular Breathing’ is a tremendously self-assured and accomplished recording.

Already, ‘Apartment’ has seen strong radio play and confirms Miller-Heidke’s song writing ability.  Beginning simply with Miller-Heidke’s delicate voice and accompanied by piano, we hear the inner thoughts of a person living on the seventh floor in a large city coping with being away from home where “we always lived in a house”.  Part a love song, part a song about self-discovery and part nostalgic, the delicate beginnings crescendo into a satisfying climax where a confident Miller-Heidke wonderfully illustrates her vocal ability without straying into pretentious showing off.

However, the highlight of the EP is ‘Out and In’, containing the lyric from which the EP takes its name.  It is the grandest of songs that, through its dreamy vocals and artful simplicity personifies Miller-Heidke’s style.  The song breaks the heart through its sad themes of doubt and growing apart, and is stunningly accompanied by haunting sounds of Emma Dean on violin.  Yet it is delivered with such a naíƒÂ¯ve beauty and is so pure, innocent and breathtakingly hair-raising, that it is worth the emotive pain.

The other songs on the EP are also greatly satisfying, with the overall recording bound together by themes of an uncomplicated life.  ‘Jamie’ is a charming love song sung by a young girl growing up in a small town.  The imagery drawn by Miller-Heidke is so vivid when she sings of dancing in the middle of the road during peak hour traffic, rolling in circles in a shopping trolley and staring into the sky.  ‘Caveman Days’ questions modern society and compares it to a time where no one ate alone, the world belonged to everyone, and where people had a soul.  Cheekily, the song concludes that although some of us may think we are pretty cool, we’d have been “crap at hunting”. 

‘Four Spare Seats’ is similarly about the loneliness of a society where we live alone, do not look at the simple things in life around us, and all drive to work in our cars with spare seats.  However, unlike the other songs on the EP, ‘Four Spare Seats’ is delivered with such a catchy, upbeat riff that even though our two protagonists continue to “stare at the floor” there is hope that things will soon change.  This sense of growing optimism flows onto ‘River of Dreams’ where thoughts of saving for a rainy day are abandoned and a live for the moment mentality is adopted.

This allows the delicate ‘Circular Breathing’ to finish in the most pleasant, rewarding, and hopeful of manners.  Let’s hope it’s a sign of bigger things to come from Miller-Heidke.