Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Dried Arrangement, the artistic moniker of Phil Cole, an Australian singer songwriter who has released a slew of records since his 2008 debut. One of his more recent efforts, ‘Sunset,’ is a fascinating excursion through dream pop musings quite unlike anything else in the independent scene right now. With a contemporary, yet classic quality, the seven song collection is one worth delving deep into. Thus, let’s do so!
‘Blip,’ the introductory track, calls to mind, perhaps, Oasis. Dried Arrangement boasts a very surreal, bubbly dream pop style that’s certainly evocative of some of Oasis’ biggest hits. The hints of soft, subtle synthesizers add a beautiful layer to ‘Blip’ and its sonic complexity. The song opens the album with a very strong, well mixed and mastered production, an element that is a mainstay on ‘Sunset.’
That ethereal style of Cole’s, however, doesn’t stagnate as one might expect. ‘Sunset’ brings an entirely new aural landscape into focus - a slightly-tinged funk riff highlights a song that embodies more wanderlust and experimentation than its predecessor. From the dynamic intro and outro to the superb instrumentation and lyricism, ‘Sunset’ is an immensely satisfying track.
‘She’s Like an Alien’ digs Dried Arrangement’s heels deeper into experimental territory. Quite truthfully, Cole’s vocal delivery and the song’s unique structure are both heavily reminiscent of Robyn Hitchcock, a high compliment. ‘She’s Like an Alien’ could be a tune right off of ‘Element of Light’ or ‘Globe of Frogs.’
While most of the tracks on 'Sunset' are "love songs" in one way or another, one must laud Dried Arrangement’s ability to keep the ideas throughout the record consistently fresh. The melancholy ‘You’re so Blue’ reaches out to a lover to attempt to help them along, whereas Indian-influenced, ‘How’d the Wheels Fall Off’ explores the unpredictable nature of life and how it impacts relationships in strange ways. (Cole cites plenty of Beatles influence, so the spurts of sitar are clearly inspired by George Harrison’s similar musings.)
The quirky ‘She Breaks Things’ is surely the album’s strongest lyrical effort, recounting the youth of a feisty woman who leaves a trail of wreckage in her wake. Cole does a rather excellent job of combining sharp, witty lyricism with memorable, singer songwriter pop hooks. That’s a difficult task. The percussion on ‘She Breaks Things’ seems to often fall out of tempo with the rest of the instrumentation, however, a rare but noticeable misstep on the record.
While ‘She Breaks Things’ is the strongest lyrical endeavor on ‘Sunset,’ the finale, ‘Way Back Home to You,’ is the mightiest instrumental outing. Vocal harmonies, a harp, and the perfect mix of electric guitar and synthesizers all culminate into Cole’s most stunning soundscape. It’s an elegant finale, a worthy send-off to a terrific EP of tunes.
‘Sunset’ is one of the stronger pop-oriented singer songwriter EP’s we’ve dug into here on the Spotlight in recent memory. Dried Arrangement’s EP is consistently compelling, remarkably well written and performed, and well worth your time. Spin it below.