The Gladeyes – Psychosis of Love (2009)
Upon first glance the Auckland, New Zealand duo The Gladeyes (Gwen Norcliffe and Jade Farley) seem unassuming – another folk pairing awash in a sea of coffee-shop crooners and street performers. Don’t let that fool you – these girls dance “to a different kind of beat”, and there is much more to this album than the standard syrupy pop. The art-school pair list a number of influences, including The Shangri-Las, The Carpenters, Bob Dylan and The Velvet Underground, and do an excellent job of harnessing such pop sensibilities without sounding dated.
The Gladeyes have toured New Zealand extensively over the last few years, gathering a loyal following, opening for acts such as Camera Obscura and allowing themselves to experiment and make their own connections with other musicians. Lawrence Arabia‘s James Milne, ex Die! Die! Die! bassist Henry Oliver, and The Ruby Suns’ Ryan McPhun are a few of the locals who collaborate on the album. The final product breathes new life into a number of already innovative recordings, from ‘Our Address’, to a cover of Hello Mr Wilson’s ‘1,000,000 Kisses’.
While not the most technically sound musicians, the pair embrace their lack of musical prowess, using their minimalistic sound to their full advantage. Snippets of giggles and recording foibles are woven into the mix, a testament to the fun had throughout the recording process and the importance of not taking oneself too seriously. The band encompass a true DIY attitude – Psychosis of Love was prefaced by a number of lo-fi EPs, where the girls oversaw everything from recording to art direction. Likewise, the new album was recorded at home over two years, mixed by Farley and Norcliffe themselves and allowed to come to fruition in its own time – an investment that has well been worth the wait.
Psychosis of Love focuses on tales of “all those lonely people” and their obsessive and wistful loves; revealing relationship moments that most of us can sheepishly relate to. There is also something unnerving going on here, but you can’t quite put your finger on it – for all of the soft vocals and earnest harmonies, there is still a current of unrest lurking under the surface. Characters Damien, Monika, Andy and Claudia all make reoccuring appearances throughout the album; harboring secret crushes, engaging in shouting matches and being charmingly dysfunctional. Even allusions of stalking appear sincere and without ill intent, furtively looking up addresses because “I just wanted to know what the view from your window was like”.
Opener ‘Monika’ boasts layers of breathy, vocals that give way to hilarious taunts of “I’m a player!” with guitar riffs and a steady beat that holds everything together without individual components being submerged.
‘Bad Town Blues’ is an enchanting single, with an immediate appeal boosted by the 60s harmonies and an engaging hook. Norcliffe and Farley have unique voices and although sometimes unsteady, the results are still a thing of beauty, conjuring up images of summer bonfires with ease.
Just when you’re settling into the dreamy xylophones, melodic percussion and the lull of the Auckland Children and Youth Choir, the idyll is broken by the inclusion of ‘Shyness Will Get You Nowhere’, an angst-ridden song of relationships coming unhinged. A Die! Die! Die! cover, it staunches the potential overflow of twee and keeps stagnation at bay.
‘Damien and Monika’ is a joy to listen to, with it’s simple chord changes and a lilting bridge providing the perfect accompaniment to the vocals, which are defiant and wistful in turn.
Fun, accessible pop that will entice you to hit ‘repeat’ and linger a little longer in The Gladeyes’ dreamworld, Psychosis of Love was quite possibly the best New Zealand release of 2009, and I cannot recommend it strongly enough.
Psychosis of Love is out now and is available from iTunes or Lil’ Chief Records.
By Nicky Andrews