Audio Mixer: Nigel Yang.
From Tame Impala's updated psych-rock to Nite Fields' hazy post-punk, Australia has been home to lots of great atmospheric music in the 2010s. Au.Ra continue that tradition with their debut album, Jane's Lament, which borrows and blends bits and pieces of chillwave, dream pop, and psych with no concern for musical boundaries. The duo's skill lies in just how effortlessly they transform those sounds into something equally mellow, affecting, and transporting. The gently compelling drift Tim Jenkins and Tom Crandles create on Jane's Lament is a far cry from the strummy indie rock of their previous bands, Parades and Ghostwood (which also included Gabriel Winterfield of the similarly trippy Jagwar Ma). Since Jenkins and Crandles shared many of these tracks as they were recording the album in Sydney and London, it's no surprise that they remain highlights. Their first single, "Sun," is still a standout in its mix of tumbling electronic and live drums, while its flip side, "Spare the Thought," has an enduring bittersweet mystique. Likewise, "Talk Show" might remain Au.Ra's finest moment, with silky guitars and synths that blur together in a sunset-like wash. However, the newer songs on Jane's Lament reflect the duo's growth: "Morning"'s slow build gradually pulls listeners into the album's world of glimpses, while "Pyramid" is a testament to how well Au.Ra blend simple lyrics ("I'll come through/Be there soon") and poignant melodies with inspired results. They bring all of these elements together on "Ease," which sketches out a lament about a fickle girlfriend with low-key brilliance. Indeed, Jane's Lament is sometimes so smooth and subdued that it's easy to dismiss at first, but with time it reveals that Au.Ra excel at the most impressionistic kind of dream pop. ~ Heather Phares