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Luke Russell is a Sydney-based singer songwriter whose new album Second Guesses is out now on Half a Cow records. By day, Luke is a philosopher at the University of Sydney, where he researches virtue, vice and evil. Luke also specializes in writing melodic pop songs with a Sixties feel. Like his 2007 debut The Kiss that Lasted All Weekend, this new record is full of chiming guitars and call-and-answer vocals. Luke made Second Guesses over the period of 2009-2011, recording as a one-man-band before calling on Angela D'Alton and his sister Sally Seltmann to add backing vocals.
The songs on Second Guesses range from the jaded romantic pop of You Chose the Wrong Girl and I'm Over the Thrill of the Chase, though the playful blue-eyed soul of My Girl's Prematurely Grey, to the gospel-influenced I Took a Wrong Turn. As always, the lyrics are a highlight. From the opening track Each and Every Day:
The next girl's six foot tall and swaying like a cat in her skinny black jeans
She speaks no Japanese so she don't know what her new tattoo means
In the slow-burning Not Even Nina Simone, Luke plans a seduction and builds a love nest in which "Nina Simone's on the gramophone, and she's singing Turn Me On". True to form, things don't work out, and by the song's end he's "drinking for two" while Nina belts out Mississippi Goddamn. Later we hear Luke
Driving home on Goulburn St, singing Crosstown Traffic
And Chinatown looked oh so sweet
It was full of Asian ladies
It's not all fun and games, though. The closing track sees Luke travelling across America, missing home and confronting mortality.
San Francisco drew the breeze though misty Eucalyptus trees
The line stretched right up through the door
And I could smell the fatal shore
No matter how we hesitate
We all approach the Golden Gate
Half A Cow have long championed intelligent Australian pop music, and they continue to do so with Luke Russell's latest album.
March 2007 The Kiss That Lasted All Weekend
Who? Luke Russell is three things – a Philosophy lecturer at Sydney Uni, the brother of Sally ‘New Buffalo’ Seltmann and …the proud owner of one of the greatest debut pop albums ever to be released in The Kiss That Lasted All Weekend. Luke played everything by himself (except for drums and piano on one song) and the album is full of beautifully unashamed pop songs, harmonies and well-crafted lyrics about unrequited love. Includes a cover of Stephin Merritt’s ‘I’ve Got New York’.
Lean in close and listen to The Kiss that Lasted All Weekend, the debut album from Sydney-based singer-songwriter Luke Russell. Full to the brim with cleverly crafted melodies and wry tales of unrequited love , The Kiss that Lasted All Weekend is a little bit pop, a touch alt-country, with a dash of folk and blue-eyed soul. Luke is a member of a musical family - his little sister grew up to become New Buffalo's Sally Seltmann. Surrounded by angel-voiced child prodigies, the young Luke was notably a-rhythmic and tone-deaf. While his sisters sang in choirs and went to ballet classes, Luke read novels and worked on algebra, thinking there wasn't a musical bone in his body. But the Go-Betweens did the trick, and before long he was playing along to a cassette recording of 'Cattle and Cane' and singing, quietly, out of tune. At university he turned his mind to the serious business of philosophy, but never stopped writing songs about girls. What followed was year after year of painstaking study: by day, Aristotle and Hume, Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle; by night, the Beach Boys and Belle & Sebastian, the Supremes and the West Coast sound. Once Luke's knowledge was complete he graduated with a PhD in philosophy, started lecturing, and decided to make a record. Armed with a bunch of instruments, a classic pop sensibility, and a polished turn of phrase, he retreated to his bedroom and built up these songs, track by track, working alone late into the night. There were times when, banging on a glockenspiel, or singing the fifth falsetto harmony, he thought it would never be finished. But here it is. A heartfelt, handmade gem of an album. What does it sound like? Listen ... a toy piano chimes over a glittering bed of tremolo-soaked guitars, and the counterpoint of the bass swings deep and slow beneath handclaps, finger clicks and reverbed tambourines. Piano accordion and pedal steel press gently against a Byrdsy jangle and a Motown beat. And draped over this beautiful mess are glowing sheets of vocal harmonies, piled up to the sky. Even at full tilt, the sound is delicate. If you put too much weight on it, the whole thing will fall to pieces. But the songs shine through. Sad songs that make you smile. Songs that change key in the middle of a verse. Songs with informative and helpful titles. Songs about love, songs about dancing, songs about what might have been. Luke wrote them all, except for the final track, a gorgeous reworking of Stephin Merritt's tearjerker 'I've Got New York'. These songs are sung from the heart. These songs are this record. This record is The Kiss that Lasted All Weekend