Australian group The Beautiful Girls are back with their latest release Dancehall Days. Driven by lead singer Mat McHugh’s independent idealisms, the album was created with the help of a Pledge Music campaign and continues the band’s effort to have their fans involved in every step of the music-making process. This time, the campaign goes one step further not only bringing the music directly to the fans and cutting out the middle men known as ‘major labels’ but also vowing to donate a portion of their raised funds to McHugh’s charity of choice Waves For Water.
True to form, Dancehall Days is a reflection of McHugh’s exploration into several different genres of music. The multi-instrumental singer/songwriter and producer shares his influences in a myriad of musical forms, all somehow combining to create one cohesive sound for which The Beautiful Girls have become best recognized for. It certainly lives up to it’s name winning listeners over by dabbling in the Caribbean grooves of dancehall, reggae and rocksteady without losing their trademark feel of blues, roots and surf music.
The opening snippet of a track at just 24 seconds is mysteriously named The Beautiful Girls Are Dead and features a dark soundscape of electronics and Tibetan throat singing monks. The spook factor is short lived though as track number two launches into a groove laden, piano fuelled explosion of instruments and sound. Heavy, dub beats and bass arrangements are complimented by electronic embellishments and the more human effect of trumpets, piano and acoustic guitar.
This experimental approach is weaved throughout the entire album with the added bonus of a more darker, mysterious feel. Stars carries an infectious groove and a stellar saxophone solo that is packed with soulful musicality while Control delivers heartfelt harmonies with some interesting effects on McHugh’s vocals.
Midway through, the energy does plateau a little but is joyfully regained once the title track Dancehall Days takes hold. An upbeat, happy-go-lucky tune that pays tribute to one of McHugh’s most prolific Jamaican influences it wastes no time in getting our heads to bop and our hips to sway in true Jamaican style. By the time listeners reach this point on the album, they are already accustomed to the amalgamation of genres in each track, however, an expected turn in musical direction occurs on Survival which possesses a progressive house feel sprinkled again with the return of some sensual saxophone embellishments.
While Dancehall Days is an excellent example in how to blend many different genres into one, it can sometimes be a bit distracting to the average listener’s ears. This scruple is easily overlooked though when well placed, interesting instrumentals and deep grooves take hold, encouraging us to let go of the need to understand and simply enjoy through the expression of dance.