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Album Review

by Dear Time's Waste

Isaac Promotions

Review Date
18th October 2010
Reviewed by
Courtney Sanders

Within a few listens of most albums, you can tell whether they are going to be disposable, time-sensitive, fad motivated jaunts or whether they have more mileage. Like all of Claire Duncan’s output to date under moniker Dear Time’s Waste, Spells is referential, and part of an historical lineage whilst maintaining an inherently unique perspective, and is therefore not only timeless, but emotively affecting with every listen and will continue to be for years (and fads) to come.

There are two lineal threads emanating from Spells. The first is the awkward off-kilter musicality somewhere between the sounds of Dunedin bands The Verlaines and Chug. Tracks like ‘Up Shoulders of a Monster’ and ‘So I was Returning’ conjure low-fi melodies and awkward chord constructions that work perfectly as a counterweight to an overall popular song mantra. Single ‘These Words Stick Me To You’ is the best example: a cute, rollicking ditty talking about everything and nothing and bringing to mind arguably New Zealand’s most exciting musical period while emanating international quality and sound: a PJ Harvey fronted Pavement? Furthermore, in saying this, Dear Time’s Waste’s uniqueness is in part due to the fact that it’s female fronted, Claire Duncan’s lyrical perspective as a member of the fairer sex coupled with an-often male-dominated sound provides an emotional sound-scape seldomly explored.

And with that comes the second nostalgic element present; an aggressive femininity that finds its roots in Patti Smith and its latter day saints in musicians like Sarah Chadwick of Batrider, PJ Harvey and even Sleater Kinney. It’s an understated Riot Grrrl that rather than spitting in your face slowly converts you to their beliefs with a quiet, assured beauty and melody. ‘Swallowed’, which marries a sparse guitar line with a lyrical focus on solitude is an eloquent example of this, while ‘And So I was Returning’ is a shouty, aggressive (for Duncan anyway) approach to rights of passage and Fighting the Man.

But Duncan sets Spells apart by marrying these elements and simultaneously offering her unique world through lyrical philosophizing and melodic quirks. In a track like ‘Messy Text’, where references to Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea could be easy to make through the verse, the chorus accentuates Duncan’s haunting vocal, concerned with an obtuse lyrical framework. The following track, ‘We Are Where We Were Before’ does the same, but with an antithetically gothic-yet-stark piano line, accompanied by a desperate questioning of life and its intricacies.

And that’s it: not only does Duncan marry some powerful moments of musical history (and ones that her audience will find kindred passion for), but she presents them on a musical and lyrical platform that portrays each element in its most flattering light. Spells presents a subtle, almost faultless accounts of the emotional meanderings of a Gen-Y musician.


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