Josh Pyke first made an impact with Australian audiences with his 2005 EP Feeding the Wolves, which featured the wonderful "Middle of the Hill," an autobiographical account of some of his childhood memories. Included here, this honest and bare song is very indicative of what to expect on Pyke's full-length debut, as he effortlessly displays an ability to wed catchy melodies with meaningful, poignant lyrics. His music has a quality that comes across like a mate talking in confidence to another; rather than singing at his audience, Pyke is sharing his thoughts and experiences in a relatable way. This introspective confessional style, in hand with a dominant acoustic feel, has drawn favorable comparisons to singer/songwriters Elliott Smith and Evan Dando, although Pyke's songs are much more life-affirming. The instantly re-listenable album opener "Lines on Palms" informs us that he's discovered that a woman "is warm breath on the back of your neck/And a warm belly pressed against yours." Such vivid lyrics immediately paint a strong image in the listener's mind and it almost threatens to overshadow the beauty of the song's melody. The choice of instrumentation in Pyke and Wayne Connolly's (You Am I, the Vines) production style adds to the huge folk-pop appeal of the music; the timpani lends an air of spectacle on the title track, and the banjo enhances the eerie atmosphere of closing song "Monkey with a Drum." In addition to writing every song on the album, Pyke plays a large portion of the instruments himself as well as performing all vocal parts. Complementing the acoustic arrangements, these lushly layered harmonies recall the styles of the Beach Boys, CSN&Y, and Little River Band, Pyke's voices being as vital as any guitar or bassline. This is demonstrated on the sweet "Forever Song," which showcases a wall of melodic "oohs" that sound as stirring as any string arrangement, and the opening vocals of the driving "Fed and Watered." Another shining example is "Sew My Name," one of the album's many highlights, featuring a gentle countermelody in the song's bridge. Confident in his craft, Pyke uses stitches as a metaphor in this track for moments lovers share and cherish: "the stitches that we made are the best that I've ever sewn." A prominent image in the album's artwork, the theme of needlework is also recurrent in "Buttons," a moody piece comprised of two distinct musical halves. This is an immensely enjoyable album for any music fan who can appreciate the efforts of a true singer/songwriter at the peak of his game -- there is not a bad song here. It already sounds like a timeless album that will still be analyzed and critiqued 20 years after its release.
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AllMusic Review by Clayton Bolger