EP REVIEW: Falls “Into The Fire”

Classifying Australia’s Falls as sweet, love-driven indie folk makes them sound pretty bland. In fact, that’s a good description of what they’re like at their worst: more often, the duo—consisting of Melinda Kirwin and Simon Rudston-Brown, who met as conservatory students in Sydney—makes music that’s much livelier than standard fare. Their slim debut EP Into The Fire, released in Australia last year under the title of Hollywood, takes Kirwin and Rudston-Brown’s close vocal harmony as its foundation, rolling elaborate string arrangements and fine-tooth rhythms in with more reflective sections and an abiding undertow of palpable love. Sounds complicated, right?

But the group comes off seasoned beyond their discography. Falls juggles every element of the music into its right place, without breaking a sweat. The album is spectacularly well organized, with rhythmic synchronicity that feels inborn; Kirwin and Rudston-Brown sound like they might be musical twins (more on that later.) Emotionally, too, each song on Into The Fire is hugely ambitious, blitzing through four or five moods in a single track. Many of the lyrics could be taken at least two ways, both of which seem like, even if they might be contradictory elsewhere, they could both be true in the Into The Fire-world. “There’s the woman I want,” Rudston-Brown sings in the opening verse of the catchy—but bait-and-switch devastating– “Girl That I Love,”. “There’s the woman that makes me wanna run away from it all.” After a brief melodica solo that’s cute enough to be the soundtrack to a Michael Cera movie, the vocals launch into much wilder outlands, with a dramatically downward-plodding piano line and crashing rhythms, and a feeling of suddenly being lost.

Elsewhere, in “Hollywood,” Rudston-Brown and Kirwin’s twin vocal lines lean on each other like the twin support beams of an arched bridge, with their tag-team duet structure as the keystone. Operating in parallel lines, the call-and-response style emerges like a prayer each voice is saying for each other, even as their melodies drift apart as the song goes on. The singers’ personalities, and relation to each other, are a strong presence on this track. Regarding their musical project, the two sometimes describe themselves as “barefoot collaborators,” as much best friends as bandmates. That emphasis on their extra-musical bond comes through loud and clear on this collection. Their biography will tell you that that Kirwin and Rudston-Brown were a couple while writing most of the EP, and that when they went to record the tracks—right after they’d broken up—they realized they had documented the story of their relationship.

In principle, I’m leery of couple music’s gimmickry, especially when the love story is already over—if Into The Fire is the story of a relationship that’s now ended, what are they going to write about for their next release?–but the pair say the autobiographical story line emerged organically, nigh unintentionally. The way they’re able to finish each other’s thoughts on this album is pretty spectacular. Some of the best moments on the album come during the sad parts of the songs—the duo has said that “Girl That I Love” can still be pretty tough to perform—when the turmoil in the song gets so wild and devastating, it seems like it must be coming from someplace close to home for the players.

So although the backstory heavily informs the music, it shouldn’t get more attention than the EP itself. Lively and sophisticated, Falls covers impressive ground in only six songs, organizing complicated elements together into beautifully structured pop songs. You can pick up your copy in Into The Fire here, and listen to “Girl That I Love” below:

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