Everybody loves a great underdog story: a small group of friends start playing music together for kicks and end up touring the world to critical acclaim. It's truly the stuff of dreams. This is the story of Gold Fields, an Australian indie outfit who were performing in their bedrooms just three short years ago and who now have an ambitious, highly anticipated debut album under their belt. We welcomed them at our CMJ showcase and for good reason. The fervor surrounding the band seemed to revolve around their energetic live shows, which was recognized well before the release of their debut.
Black Sun is finally here, and it's exactly what we expected: an album densely packed with big rhythms, choruses, and hooks. If it sounds remarkably mature for a debut, it's because Black Sun went through not one, not two, but THREE iterations before they settled on the final product. It was a roll of the dice, especially considering the hype could have died out at any given moment. The saying goes, "good things come to those who wait," and Gold Fields' undying commitment to producing a great album ultimately paid off big dividends. Rather than half baking these tracks, the band tried their absolute best to make sure they cooked everything to perfection.
It's hard to blame Gold Fields for trying out a bunch of different things before reaching a conscious decision on what Black Sun should sound like. I get the sense that a multitude of ideas from the previous sessions were refined condensed and improved before they made the cut on the album. Each song is bustling with a mixture of flavorful ingredients. This layered sound is also carefully constructed around song structures that don't box in essential components. It's a remarkable balance that obviously required plenty of care.
The album's distinct 80s dance vibe is often peppered with funky guitar riffs and bass lines that transcend to new clubby heights. Perhaps most instrumental of all, the drum beats are built around tribal rolls that eschew traditional drumming. Gold Fields play off of these rhythms and use them to their advantage to segue into unpredictable bridges and choruses. The songs change directions, but not drastically, resulting in an upbeat shiftiness. These pleasant surprises are what sets this band apart in terms of songwriting and they give way to the best moments on the record. "Ice" is a sinister, yet beautiful synth pop/chill wave of a track that could have found itself right at home on the Drive soundtrack. It's in a similar vein to "Dark Again (Lights Out)", the album's lead single, which subsequently leans more towards the bands pop tendencies, but remains refreshing out of pure virtue.
On "Treehouse", a song packed with bells and hand claps, the chorus hums "Do you know far/we are from the moon?/Do you know how fast we are?" It almost seems like an admission that the band has a long way to go on their cosmic journey to greatness. That may be true, there is certainly lots of work still to be done. On the other side of that line, we have an album that far exceeds its role as a debut effort. So if their goal is in fact the moon, my guess would be that they will arrive with an Australian flag sooner rather than later.