The Laurels – Plains

Partly inspired by Gerald Murnane’s novel The Plains, the debut album from Sydney four-piece The Laurels has been years in the making. Produced by Liam Judson (Cloud Control, Belles Will Ring), Plains is a punchy and auspicious debut offering, which quickly establishes the band’s dark shoegaze nuances and contagious alt-rock atmosphere. In comparison to the group’s 2011 EP Mesozoic, Plains is clearly focused on intricacy, tone, balance, structure and aesthetic.

Album opener Tidal Wave swells with a wall of pulsing percussion from Kate Wilson, as well as the beautifully articulate guitar work of Piers Cornelius and Luke O’Farrell. Fuzz-heavy and slightly psychedelic, the track is driven by the catchy chorus line “Wash over me / Tidal wave / Wash over you / Tidal wave”. Conor Hannan’s vibrant bass lines maintain a great momentum, as the track renders itself a dynamic and powerful leading track.

Changing The Timeline is led by dark guitar riffs and snarly vocals. Its chorus is erratic and edgy; the track exudes a mysterious swagger. The psychedelic pop-rock of This City Is Coming Down resembles a pastiche of The Beatles, Radiohead and Elliott Smith. The song’s aesthetic is uplifting, yet intricate, with lyrics such as “Transcend reality / Reach divinity” echoing as the song crescendos.

The moody guitar swells and driving rhythms of Mesozoic help to establish a sense of travel and place. Coupled with lines like “This is the way to / Rejuvenate my creative mood”, the song details the creative process, yet feels repetitive and drawn-out in parts – perhaps for good reason. The sharp chord progression which drives One Step Forward (Two Steps Back) becomes enveloped in diving guitar solos. The track possesses a contagious ambiance which is one of the highlights of the album.

Final track, A Rival, echoes the tones of My Bloody Valentine, coupled with delicate guitar lines and a great use of dynamics. The track falls quiet midway through, before building up to the album’s anthem “Arrived / Now we’ve arrived”.

Plains is a well balanced album driven by the interplay of edgy guitars, moody percussion and thevocals of Cornelius and O’Farrell which mix terrifically well throughout. The Laurels have successfully established their aesthetic within their first album, yet this sound will no doubt continue to develop. Plains is missing some of the heavy octave-changing guitar riffs seen on the group’s debut EP Mesozoic, and thus is more subtle and unassuming.