Personnel: Kaity McWhinney, Rose Melberg (vocals, guitar); Gregor Phillips (vocals, drums); Tracey Vath (vocals).
Audio Mixer: David Carswell.
Recording information: 05/2015/04/2015.
Photographer: Sam Baker.
Rose Melberg is one of those musicians where everything she does is reliably great. All the bands she's been in (like Tiger Trap, the Softies, Brave Irene), all the songs she's sung, all the records she's made (especially her run of solo records in the 2000s) are worth hearing; most are worth carrying around with you at all times in case a musical embrace is required. Without her warm and engaging presence, indie pop would be just a little less fun and many of the genre's highlights would be missing. Knife Pleats, the band she formed with members of Love Cuts, comes from the noisy, uptempo side of her output. Their first album, Hat Bark Beach, sounds like a nimble version of Tiger Trap or a tougher version of Go Sailor, but also sounds like Melberg at her best. Filled with hummable songs, sugar-sweet choruses, layered vocal harmonies, bright guitar melodies, and energy-packed drums, it's exactly what one of her bands should be and the album rates with her best. The emotional honesty of songs like "One Step Too Far" and "Distant Ships" is quietly devastating; the punch-in-the-gut sentiments of "Last Few Days" and "Terrible" are matched by the whip-smart guitars and heavy drumming. Melberg is her usual brilliant self, bringing infinite melancholy to the sad songs and a sweet calmness to the less sad songs. The bandmembers sound great throughout as they prove to be great collaborators, with excellent vocal backing from Kaity McWhinney and Tracey Vath. It all comes together beautifully in an unbroken wave of indie pop goodness, and while it may be a bit soon to elevate Knife Pleats to the level of the Softies or Tiger Trap, Hat Bark Beach takes them a giant step in that direction. ~ Tim Sendra