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Walking that fine line between sounding fresh and invoking nostalgia is an interesting idea. Lean too far towards re-fashioning an old sound and you come across as cheap and unoriginal.
Luckily for Sydney trio DMA’S, the simplicity of their lyrics and intricate instrumentation have earned them a devoted fan base. Even the band themselves can hear the similarities, with melodies that sound like they’re straight out of 1990’s Brit-rock era that attract people, old and young, in droves.
Named after a song omitted from the album, Hills End is in many ways a perfect debut. For one thing, it contains a great many of the heavy hitters from their demo days, including Lay Down, So We Know, Play It Out and, of course, they’re world-renowned hit and building ballad Delete.
As for the 8 brand new songs contained on the album, you can be rest assured. They have been carefully curated and ordered in such a way that it makes the older songs feel re-purposed.
Opening with Timeless, it’s an up beat blasting of jangling, distorted guitars and a driving, solid bass line to carry the track. The spritely acoustic guitar that peaks above these elements gives the track a grounding-feel.
Lay Down is up next, with its signature melody and borderline rasp of Tommy O’Dell’s vocal delivery. We then simmer down for Delete’ providing an early rest stop but God, if the build-up and charm within this track isn’t enough to make you press repeat multiple times then you’re honestly not listening hard enough.
Too Soon blasts us with an instant start. Energy levels rise to peak point, with a euphoric chorus containing the resonating lyrics: “When you’re on your own / Do you break down? / Are you coming up too soon?” with backing vocal repeats of “Too Soon” stabbing through the throttling instrumentation.
Latest single from the album In The Moment is a slower affair. Charming in its execution with heady bass and an amalgamation of acoustic and electronic guitar parts that cause a huge chorus sound. Plus the fact that guitars alone have created sounds so akin to that of synthesisers is impressive.
Step Up The Morphine is the shortest track on the record, and as the middle point it is remarkably slower than all that we have heard prior. Echoing, distorted guitars provide breaks between verses, while lyrics seem more introspective with statements such as “Sometimes I wonder why we bother at all.”
Over the halfway point and we’re hit with another slow starter in So We Know. The lyrics are littered with cutting statements such as, “I can’t keep up with loosing out / Now I know what life’s about now your gone.” The euphoric guitar breakdown around the 2:20 mark lifts the entire song, with the main melody still chiming out from under the fat guitars, heavy drums and layered vocals.
From an interesting synth-like start, 8th track Melbourne acoustically strums its way into sudden vocals and a more upbeat drumming pattern. Lyrically it feels like the next step from So We Know, with the subject pushing himself to overcome a shitty relationship with reassurances of “I won’t feel no pain”. It suddenly breaks down into a storm of warping instruments and finishes without warning.
The bottom third of the album provides four charming tracks. Straight Dimensions holds a sweet simple guitar solo that drives the songs main melody. Tenth track Blown Away changes it up with an echoing, distant sounding drum beat and harrowing vocals that soon evolve into a fuller sound. More synth sounding elements open eleventh track The Switch, with seemingly nonsensical lyrics “I didn’t want it all / I just lost my way / This is where I’m from / Hit the switch again”. We close the album with rock-heavy track Play It Out, a great sing-along inducing track with an infectious drumbeat.
So whether it’s music to soundtrack your daily commute, a glorious group road trip or whether you, like me, aren’t opposed to pissing off your older neighbours by belting out lyrics whilst pogoing around your kitchen, then this album is well worth hours of your time.
Besides, your neighbours will probably love the album anyway.
‘Hills End’ is out Feb 26 via I OH YOU, grab a copy here.