It’s kind of disconcerting how most of the hyped Australian exports are wild indie rockers. Bands like The Vines, Wolfmother, The Living End and the like, while fine enough examples of rawk attitude and posturing, serve more to cement the stereotype of “crazy Aussies” to the world at large. It’s a shame because it means the quiet, melancholic introspection of Sodastream is completely overshadowed, if not made to cower on the fringes thanks to their rabid countrymen.
Thanks largely to singer Karl Smith’s delicate nasal whisper and gentle acoustic fingerpicking, Sodastream have drawn comparisons to Belle & Sebastian since the release of their first album. While those Scots have moved onto less intimate and sonically grander levels of songwriting, Smith and his partner, Pete Coher, have kept the torch for simplicity burning strong. Rarely lifting above a quiet creak, even when the band is at its peak — as on “Tickets to the Fight,” when guitar, double bass, french horn, viola, saw and piano coalesce — it’s a reedy pulse, both coy and pensive, that rises up. Smith’s gift for melody manifests itself throughout Reservations, but shines brightest on the opener, “Warm July.” It’s a sad bastard ode, but one that’s reached a level acceptance that’s beyond pity-mongering and has attained a much-needed sense of calm and a wry humor. Smith’s acoustic glides slowly through the humid rhythms of Coher’s walking bass line and Biddy Connor’s sustained viola. It’s true lonesome music for the outback, settled around a campfire at dusk, miles away from civilization and the power supplies needed to turn on a Marshall stack.