[sic] Magazine

The Apartments – No Song No Spell No Madrigal

Bizarrely, The Apartments have been recording for nearly 40 years! They formed in Brisbane, Australia in 1978 and have been releasing music on-and-off since then. No Song… is their ninth album. My first listen was during a very hot and sunny summer’s day, where the music felt distinctly out of step; the snowy scene on the cover would perhaps provide a far more fitting backdrop in which to enjoy this album, but having said that, its charms are particularly vivid during sunset, as the day ebbs away. The instrumentation is smooth, sublime and calming. Fans of The Blue Nile, Thomas Feiner, The Go-Betweens and The National are sure to fall in love with this album.

The opening track, which takes its name from the album title, gently builds and weaves itself around you. It’s not an album highlight as such, but it lays the groundwork rather nicely in the same way as when you’re watching bands at a festival – a loud, uplifting band has just left the stage, and on walk The Apartments and suddenly everything turns mellow. It takes several songs to lock into a mood change like that. Imagine watching Florence and the Machine followed by The National. Euphoria followed by calm. Happiness followed by delicate longing, perhaps.

It’s the self same longing that shines through most brightly as the central message across this album. Whether it’s the memory of a lost friend in ‘September Skies’ (‘The railway yards, the flour mills, where a world goes on – but you’re not in it’), longing for a lost love in ‘Twenty One’ (“Didn’t I promise you that one day I’d take you away to New York? Whatever happened to the promise? Whatever happened to the time? It ran out”), or memories of a previous home in ‘The House That We Once Lived In’ (“Oh the trees there are so tall now. They were planted when your first child was born. The swings in the yard are still there now, but the child and the flowers are gone“).

‘Looking For Another Town’ commences with the most gorgeous strings. The female harmonies during the chorus are sublime. If you’re counting down the days to the next Paul Buchanan album and you’re looking for an excuse to purchase a quality album, ‘Looking For Another Town’ should provide all the evidence you need, it’s delightful.

Similarly, those same male/female harmonies are employed to great effect throughout ‘Black Ribbons’. Essentially, a call and response song, where Peter Milton Walsh delivers a verse followed by the gorgeous vocals of Natasha Penot delivering the next. The chorus contains the most beautiful chord sequence. ‘Black Ribbons’ is worth the entrance price alone.

The aforementioned ‘Twenty One’ feels distinctly sad until we hit the three-minute mark when the anger really comes flooding out – the anger of losing somebody very special before they’ve hit their twenty-first birthday. ‘September Skies’ delivers a more optimistic message, slightly reminiscent of fellow Aussies The Church.

Overall, The Apartments have delivered a magical album. Records like this really don’t come around too often. Immerse yourself in it.

The Apartments official webpage