While Liam Finn’s debut album of last year, I’ll Be Lightning, attracted its fair share of acclaim, the Australian was weighed down by the duality of being a dizzyingly frenetic live performer but something of a straightforward singer-songwriter on record.
Utilising an array of loops, and showcasing his awesome drumming skills, on stage Finn never disappointed; but by witnessing the man in the flesh before hearing his recorded wares, this writer for one was left a little less impressed than was expected. Yet for this new six-track offering, the eldest son of Crowded House’s Neil Finn has chosen to explore sounds that, largely, gently caress the synapses rather than bludgeon their way into one’s affections, as was the case with previous performances.
Opener Plane Crash does provide a brief blast of bluster, but it spends much of its three-and-something minutes lolloping its way to said explosion of volume. When it fades down to silence, Long Way to Go replaces its boisterousness with a confident swagger that suits its maker well – think the work of his father given a layer of cockiness and just a little funk in the track’s catchy rhythm. From here onwards, though, Champagne in Seashells leaves the amplifiers in the splitter and sets out to entertain with a hush rather than a holler.
Honest Face is as close to Wilco – who Finn will soon tour with – as any Australian act has come, for better or worse: evocative as it is, you might be tempted to replace this disc with the genuine article. Won’t Change My Mind is a sumptuous, prog-touched piece that acts as the mini-album’s fulcrum – to one side, the artist’s brash cacophonies; the other, his understated offerings. On Your Side is this release’s most-tender track, a duet with regular collaborator Eliza-Jane Barnes, whose delicate tones are matched perfectly with Finn’s own.
The drones-and-samples textural wash of closer Captain Cat is Crying is a delightful Atlas Sound-style way to end this too-brief preview of where Finn may head next, stylistically. Clearly a significant step onwards from the arrangements of his decent debut album, Champagne in Seashells is a reminder that there’s much more to Finn than your garden variety singer-songwriter. He might be celebrated primarily for his shows, but his is a talent evidently ambitious in the studio, too. --Mike Diver
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