Review: Broads – Vacancy

I believe many things are possible. It’s possible in a moment of introspection, of quiet reserve, to feel something with every fiber of your being. It’s possible to find that note, that word, that smile, that scent to send you reeling back to your happiest memories. Laying in a field, watching the clouds shift and bend to the will of the wind, feeling the Earth move around you in silent symphony, it is possible to feel as if life is not collapsing inward upon itself. It’s possible to hear an album that embodies all of these things.

We were just kids, up to no good, a long way from home…

Australia’s Broads are composed of songwriters/vocalists/multi-instrumentalists Kelly Day and Jane Hendry. In 2014, after a run together in the a cappella group The Nymphs, Day and Hendry struck out on their own and emerged with a self-titled EP filled with stripped-down, yet gorgeous folk noir. It was a masterful display of spacious writing where Day and Hendry’s voices were the centerpiece of  a sparsely decorated table. Over two years later, Day and Hendry have returned with their debut full-length album, Vacancy, and it is an absolute triumph.

There is a sneaky darkness to this album. It all sounds so alluring, and alluring it is. Yet Day and Hendry have not penned sugar-coated songs about sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. No, there are raindrops and cigarettes present here instead, and those rainbows you’re seeing are reflected in the puddles collected in city potholes after the storm. From the album artwork to the lyrics to the music itself, this album seethes a moral ambiguity, a certain desperate fatalism wrapped in neo-folk balladry. On their EP it was Day, Hendry, and an acoustic guitar or two. However on this album, Day and Hendry are backed by a full band who play it with perfect subtlety. Day and Hendry allow their players to add layers below the surface and then peel them back when they’re ready to share them with you. Everything feels just perilous enough , just sultry enough, to make sure innocence is checked at the door.

Oh how could I leave this body…

Truth be told, I was privileged enough to have heard this album two long months ago, when in this very space we debuted the single, “Nod Off, Dream.” I’ve listened to this album at least twenty times if I’ve listened to it once and I’ve been trying for two months to write this review. This album has wrecked me. It has rendered me incapable of forming the right words, of stringing together the right sentences, to properly convey its mesmerizing beauty. In my head this review has been started and aborted at least once for every, singular minute that Day and Hendry weave their musical web. I am ensnared almost to the point of incapacity and the harder I fight, the further I fall. There are moments on this album when I’m literally stopped in my tracks. When Day and Hendry hit the chorus of “Kerosene Dream,” for example, I melt. The pen falls from my hand, my eyes close, and all I can do is listen. Listen like a sailor being lead to the rocks by two sirens and I’m absolutely at peace with my own demise in those lucid moments.

Who is this sordid and jaded cast of characters that Day and Hendry paint such vivid pictures of? Who is this John they write such a gut-punch of a letter to? What vivid portraits do they really want to depict on this green screen we call life? And if I do finally nod off and dream, why are my dreams filled with the smokey whispers and each auspicious note of this album? There are stories here. There are characters and stories, and it doesn’t always end as sweetly as those two voices would have you believe. But those voices…those voices that can haunt every fiber of your being, that take you back to happier times, that keep the world from imploding upon itself even for a few fleeting moments. It is these moments in time, these notes and these songs forever wrapped in the amber of our subconscious that can fuel us until the end times. If we die tomorrow, we die better for having had Day and Hendry sing to us.

Vacancy is out now and can be both purchased and experienced at the Broads Bandcamp page.

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