A close harmony duo from Melbourne, Australia, sisters Mabel and Ivy Windred-Wornes have been likened to First Aid Kid while other influences include Sufjan Stevens and Gillian Welch, Wonderful Oblivion being their third album with songs variously about loss, death and environmental consciousness.
Joined by multi-instrumentalist Daniel Ledwell handling drums, bass, electric guitar, piano, harp, flugelhorn and trombone, it opens with ‘Concentrate On Breathing’ which, as it suggests, taking its cue from meditation, is about finding focus to escape from stress and confusion (“let your thoughts fall like water to the floor/When you put a name to what you’re seeing/Know that it’s all just the trick of the light”). On a similar theme, with watery pizzicato strings, the soft and soothingly sung ‘Gravity’ concerns what they refer to as toxic positivity, that is to say being relentlessly upbeat as a way of avoiding grief rather than acknowledging such feelings, and that relying on false hope can end up leaving you disillusioned (“we thought and we prayed/To anyone that might hear/And if we crossed our fingers it might just appear/And we’d wake up one bright day and see/We’d had our wishes granted…How didn’t we see/We couldn’t withstand gravity”).
They turn their attention to eco matters with ‘Heavy’, a piano accompanied number about how, through consumerism and narcissism (“we look for great heights and for shimmering brilliance to reflect in our eyes”), we have lost connection to nature (“I watch the smoke form towers rising up to the heavens/The trees were screaming ashes as we wielded our weapons”), pondering “ten years on/Will we wonder what we ever thought we were doing?”
Finn Milne behind the piano, ‘Pockets Of Stones’ emerged from a lockdown reflection on how childhood experiences shape your behaviour, the song being about finding the strength to be honest about yourself and what troubles you, in particular addressing fears of being rejected (“It’s not until now that I realise/The injuries left hidden inside/And how scared I was that you’d be repulsed by this body of mine/That you’d cower away and you’d freak out/When all the worst parts of me leaked out”), the title a metaphor for being rid of what weighs you down.
Childhood also informs the stately pulsing piano and strings ballad ‘As A Child’ with the loss of its innocence as we grow older (“In the blink of an eye/You wake up and find all the magic is gone”), whereas, taking its cue from traditional folk murder ballads, the lightly acoustic fingerpicked ‘Miranda’ relates the consequences of intense jealousy (“one afternoon when you’re alone she comes to your door/With a face blushed red she asks you if he is home at all/And Miranda in your strife, you grab the kitchen knife and she sinks to the floor”).
With a definite Simon & Garfunkel touch, Indyana Kippin on viola and referencing the geography of west Melbourne (“We walked from Footscray all the way to Seaholme”) ‘Treading Water’ is the obligatory post break-up ruminations number (“We both knew we were just treading water/Eventually drowned each other”), charting the transition from lovers to friends (“Would it be wrong to call this grieving/Losing someone who is still breathing”).
Loss is there too on the violin and cello-accompanied ‘Goodnight’, a quietly moving song penned by Ivy about a best friend who passed away when she was younger (“I came home one Wednesday afternoon/It was a long day and I’d said goodbye to you/Now every piece of me is aching for that touch”).
The sisters keep dream journals and, somewhat spookily, one week they both dreamt about leaping into the unknown, one from a huge tree, the other off into a canyon, resulting in ‘Canyon’, a slow march beat song about leaps of faith and that “You’ll never know unless you try”.
A brief swirling keyboards instrumental, ‘Into The Well’ sets the mood for the dreamy closing title track, ‘Wonderful Oblivion’, a whimsical musing on the theme of death (part inspired by an episode of Six Feet Under) and what follows that opens with distant voices before a simple repeated strummed guitar pattern arrives and they wonder if “when it’s our time/We’ll fade into the light/Maybe upwards or some other direction/Reaching heaven or hell/Or back into the well of wonderful oblivion”. These birds of a feather have an allure than is hard to resist.
Artists’ website: www.charmoffinchesband.com
‘Concentrate On Breathing’ – official video: