Music
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Whitley

The Submarine

(Fontana Universal; US: 30 Sep 2008; UK: Available as import; Australia release date: 25 Sep 2007)

Lawrence Greenwood, the Melbourne musician who records as Whitley, is only 22. But like fellow young-but-old folk songwriters Zach Condon and Willy Mason, he’s been cultivating the sound of wisdom beyond years. It helps, on his debut The Submarine, that he also pens a mean pop melody. At least four of the songs on the album could soundtrack a pivotal scene in an indie love story, or stand in for that Oh Laura song from the Saab ad, which is to say they’re atmospheric, lovely, and immediately arresting.


Greenwood’s voice is smoky and organic, similar to Xavier Rudd, though the music is of course much less rootsy. Subtle electronic patter creates a mostly extraneous, atmospheric effect (reminiscent of the similarly melancholic French songwriter Syd Matters). But Whitley’s songs, even when they can’t quite hold themselves together, are small, timeless slices of exquisite pop. You’ll find yourself singing along to the aching refrain in “I Remember” before the song’s once through.


“Lost in Time” slowly churns towards a heartfelt, gorgeous chorus. “More than Life” is straighter-edged; over peaceful guitar arpeggios Whitley almost whispers “We are homeward bound”, a phrase that becomes both sigh and aspiration. Though it’s intensely personal, Whitley’s subtle songs never come across self-indulgent – a fact integral to The Submarine’s considerable charm. He’s touring the US in hopes of making it big; with a bit of luck, who knows, he just might.

Rating:

Dan Raper has been writing about music for PopMatters since 2005. Prior to that he did the same thing for his college newspaper and for his school newspaper before that. Of course he also writes fiction, though his only published work is entitled "Gamma-secretase exists on the plasma membrane as an intact complex that accepts substrates and effects intramembrane cleavage". He is currently studying medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia.


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