Album Review: Dusken Lights – In The Service of Spring (2016 LP)

In The Service of Spring is the debut full-length from Sydney’s Dusken Lights. It’s an extremely relaxed album – very, very low energy – but very sweet and pretty when it works. The opening track, “Superman, Wondergirl” (sidenote, why no Wonder Woman?) is a promising opener, with the juxtaposed vocals of singer/guitarist Paul O. Watling and singer/bassist Francesca Bussey – who I personally would have liked to hear more of – working together over a dreamy, pretty folk-pop melody.

From there on, however, it’s kind of a mixed bag. More good than bad, as far as quality is a concerned, but the album does drag a bit. It’s possible that this kind of low-energy indie folk just isn’t built to be listened to in one hit, as it’s undeniable that as a group Dusken Lights know what they’re doing, and a lot of the individual songs are strong on their own. There’s a ponderous rhythm moves across the album that’s atmospheric and really lends a deeper, darker kind of feel – especially to songs such as “The Frangipani Are Open”, which is reminiscent of a history of strange, vaguely ominous folk rebellion songs from Ireland and, later, the related tradition of Appalachian mountain music. It feels like it means something more dangerous than it seems on the surface. This feeling winds its way through the album, and it’s one of the most enjoyable parts. “Mother Nature Wants Him Dead” feels like a battle at high noon in a very self-aware noir-western film.

The album really could have used more of Bussey’s voice, however. She sings harmony throughout, but Watling’s voice is possibly a bit of an acquired taste – it’s very in the vein of Bob Dylan – whereas Bussey’s voice is a beautiful counterpoint, which might have saved the second half of the album. Broken up into chunks, it’s a decent album, but it does drag. From the fifth song onwards, the play-time doesn’t dip below four minutes until the very end.

In The Service of Spring is a capably performed album, and Dusken Lights clearly have a very strong grasp of genre and the musicality of folk. Scattered throughout a mixtape or a playlist, the individual songs would probably be refreshing. Taken altogether, however, the album is a little bit too much, although Dusken Lights are still worth keeping an eye on for fans of folk-pop and Australian indie.

Review Score: 6.1 out of 10.


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