In the dimly lit ambience of one of Sydney’s most nostalgic hotels, two singer songwriters set out to figure out exactly who they were and what kind of mark they were to make on the music scene. At the time, Melinda Kirwin and Simon Rudston-Brown probably had no idea that not only would they become part of, but they would play a large part in creating a continuously growing, mutually nurturing music scene.
In the Hollywood Hotel, Falls were born. After approaching owner (former screen actor) Dorris Godard and bar manager Marc multiple times with requests to play at their venue, they finally caved. After the first performance they were asked back week after week, each week being joined by the brightest wordsmiths, and folk darlings Sydney had to offer. Needless to say, Folk Club developed quite the following. A following of like-minded musicians and appreciators alike, who took solace every Wednesday evening in a venue where you could sit in candlelight and really appreciate songwriters, in a space where people were actually there to listen, which unfortunately is a real rarity in the Sydney music scene.
Their debut offering, aptly titled “Hollywood” (later to be renamed “Into The Fire”) was a beautiful piece of work (produced by Tony Buchan) which immediately showcased the pairs stunning ability to churn out deeply felt, fully realised stories of the emotions that make us human, and at the end of the day, to me, that is what is so special about the music Falls make. It is deeply, deeply human.
Catching the ear of Triple J, Falls quickly gained a great deal of well-deserved attention, leading to tours with The Lumineers, Passenger, Of Monsters & Men, Vance Joy and Matt Corby, and eventually, this growing popularity also saw them being picked up by Universal Music Groups iconic, Verve Records. To be whisked over to the United States where they would spend the next 12 months relentlessly touring and writing for what is now their debut album.
Their first full length offering Omaha (produced by Mike Mogis) see’s an already incredibly talented pair of songwriters build on a very solid foundation of emotional storytelling, told through simple melodies and intricate harmonies . It is an immediately nostalgic record, bursting with instant classics, somehow managing to tread the line between the old world and the new.
The album begins with the shimmering “Let in the Light” which sports some ambient autoharp and syncopated drums, whilst the voice of reason sings clear and questioning in the foreground. The song swells its way through until finally it crescendos into a soaring instrumental break, before coming back in with one final urging chorus “Open up the door, let in the light”.
“Summer” sees the album take an immediate and uphill climb. Punchy and filled with longing, it reads like a seemingly homesick travelogue. The beauty in this song lies within contrast between light and dark lyrically versus musically. Stomps and claps bring us into “Beating Hearts”, which literally bought me to tears upon listening, covering territory Falls are all too familiar with, complicated love. “Beating Hearts” is filled to the brim with lines filled with hope, regret and unfortunate fact. “How I wish that we could start anew, and I wake up in your arms”. Who hasn’t lay awake at night wishing that they couldn’t fix it all and start again? But as they so aptly follow up with “You just can’t come back and, get it all back”.
Whilst primarily upbeat in sound, Omaha does have some darker diamonds. “Someone Like You” is a more melancholy number. The protagonist is a character we all know too well, shut off from the world, incapable of connecting with their emotions. Rattling off a series of his own weaknesses he implores his lover not to blame themselves for his inability to give emotionally, whilst assuring them it’s nothing personal. But amidst the darkness of this seemingly vacant character, there is the faintest glimmer of hope in the lines “I’ve been waiting so long, to lose someone like you”. Hope that he may possibly, after reaching rock bottom, see the errors of his ways. A similar character is seen in the deep and questioning “Better Way To Go” which is filled with brooding harmonica and some very philosophical pondering, and again on the intensely reflecting “Don’t Ask”.
The combination of string arrangements by Tony Buchan and Mike Mogis’ genius production are really something, taking the listener on an emotional roller coaster as each song ebbs and flows, you really feel like you are journeying through this sentimental landscape alongside of them. Reliving your own loves and losses, as if they were an immediate and present force in your current reality.
The second single released off of Omaha is the indisputably infectious “When We Were Young”, which is one of those head bopping, sing aloud in the street type of numbers. With bouncy guitars embellished by shiny keys and syncopated string sections. Evoking images of the blistering streets of New York, it is an incredibly sentimental number that plays on our deeply ingrained attachment to our youth.
It’s common knowledge that Falls “Met. They fell in love. They wrote songs. They fought. They made up. They broke up.” and “They wrote songs”. So it’s naturally no surprise that they really know how to pen a deep and complicated love song. “Thats the Thing” and “Falling” both flaunt sweet acoustic finger-picking embellished by rich arrangements. “Falling” is a slow burning love song, where call and response vocals are set over the light pitter-patter of drums, tells the tale of a new love blooming, whilst “That’s the Thing” is a lament for love lost and simmers its way into a reflective conclusion.
“Independence Day” is lyrically very witty, calling upon iconic American imagery to really build up a visual presence, pairing it with some tender emotionalism, just to really tug at the heartstrings. “That red white and blue, staring at me staring at you, and I’m red eyed and blue, thinking about him thinking about you”
The penultimate track on Omaha is “Whistling Dixie” which sings of “that old bittersweet melody” it plays like a familiar heartfelt lullaby that leaves you longing for a yesterday of simpler times.
At the conclusion of Omaha we are taken to sunny “Argentina”, a tender number which is full and bright, with country tinged steel stringed guitars that play wholesome and warm, it aptly feels very conclusory and leaves the listener feeling whole and fulfilled.
Falls have achieved so much, in such a short period of time, and Omaha is a sophisticated, deeply emotional and fully realised piece of art that explores the intricacies and intensities of the human experience through flawlessly crafted lyricism and intoxicatingly sweet melodies and cements their status as serious game players in the songwriting world.
‘Omaha’ is out now on Verve Records. Buy it here on iTunes.