ALL OUR EXES LIVE IN TEXAS
When We Fall (ABC)
Go on, find something “wrong” with the debut album of neo-country/folk/something pretty that once would have been called pop, songs from the Sydney quartet All Our Exes Live In Texas.
Let’s start with the name which is kinda cute, right? And some of their lyrics aim for amusing too: occasionally black humour, sometimes whimsical. When it comes to heartache, you gotta laugh, right?
The four writer/singers, Elana Stone, Katie Wighton, Hannah Crofts and Georgia Mooney, sing beautifully together, warmly when solo, and arrange themselves in ways that hit the right note, literally and figuratively.
Each take turns at the front, giving the album variety in leads and tone as well, and the a cappella final track confirms no one is dragging the chain.
While the obvious comparisons might be with the Trio albums made by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, and slightly with the more recent Case Lang Veirs combination – while When The Sun Come Up is very early Laura Marling - most often they sound like Swedish sisters First Aid Kit.
That’s partly in the confidence when in a skipping country feel, and the ease in sad mode; partly in the moments when one or more voices fly higher airily; but also in the suggestion of innocence and admiration of a genre from afar.
It’s a mix of natural enthusiasm and shrewdness that comes from a life lived away from “source” material but not short of examples from which to draw.
That is reinforced by the production which doesn’t settle for plain country/folk sounds, or some “authentic” retro thing that would be the aural equivalent of gingham and boots.
Yes, the mandolin is here, and the accordion, but that’s not where it ends. When We Fall is not afraid to fill out the sound, whether adding strings or thickset drums, offering trumpet or bulking the air around those voices, and there’s never a moment when you might consider this album as anything but a modern record.
So, yes. There’s nothing wrong here at all. And pretty much all the references/influences here are acts that our personal favourites. What’s not to like?
Could it be that it sounds as if it was constructed to fit exactly on the ABC radio playlists or the stage at Woodford or the personal favourites of some middle-aged music critic (if anyone gave a toss), where things a bit rootsy, a bit country, a bit pretty, a bit sad, fare well?
Though that makes a change from those records you hear and immediately think, “well , someone has worked out the Kingsmill formula for triple J”, it feels minutely calculated.
Could it be that as pretty as everything is, it’s hard to find anything under the surface? Yes, there’s attention to detail and some good lines, making for accurately reproduced tropes, but so much sounds like outright calculation rather than inspiration.
Too picky? Too narky? It’s pretty and sweet, isn’t that enough?
Recently I took issue with the corporate rock me-tooism of Kingswood whose new album is a kind of musical Arnotts Family Assorted: the potential of something for every hit picker on radio, TV or blogland. Too safe, too obvious was the verdict.
All My Exes Live In Texas isn’t as blatant as that, and it’s not like this is a style that’s going to make anyone a lot of money anytime soon.
But just because it’s a more “organic” sounding record doesn’t mean it can’t just as easily fall into the trap of being accurate but shallow, its formula moves well intentioned by genuine fans who think more than feel this stuff.
The songs aren’t special but they’re fine. The album is fine too. And fine may be all that’s necessary. Go on, find something wrong with that.