Modular, the go-to label for Australian electronic pop music, are continuing to mine a rich vein of talent from their home country. Van She are the latest band from down under to consolidate a strong debut, following on from Cut Copy and Ladyhawke. Their music contains elements of these acts, while striving for some individuality itself.
Van She have in fact been going for 10 years, though Idea Of Happiness remains only their second published album. It stays true to the Modular blueprint, with bright, warm weather harmonies, wistful vocals and extremely danceable beats, the vibe overwhelmingly positive and forward looking.
There are some catchy hooks, too – You’re My Rescue has a memorable tag line, while Beat Of The Drum is excellent, something of a call to arms. We Move On is a good song with which to end, too, introducing a touch of vulnerability. “Stay back – you hurt me – stay back, so I can move on,” it asks – and then proceeds to step forward with impressive resolution.
Arguably the best song here is Jamaica. It shows Van She to be capable of some rather beautiful scene-setting, the Caribbean warmth channelled through cleverly used percussion. So often songs about tropical islands end up being massive, inappropriate clichés, but Van She’s ode feels borne of personal experience, the sense of escapism palpable from the very first notes. The way they sing about it, Jamaica is clearly “a place we can go to make it all disappear”.
And yet on the rest of the album that extra element, that something that prevents them from reaching the exalted levels of their contemporaries, is lacking. The vibe is almost complete but not quite, and it’s puzzling. At first it’s the feeling that we’ve heard this style of music a lot now, and no matter how well it’s done the fact remains that their label mates are going to be hard to shake off. Then, after repeated hearings, it becomes clear that a number of the songs, while good pieces of work in their own right, are solid but unspectacular, lacking the killer melodic instinct that would make them ultimately memorable.
With everything else in place, Van She have all the elements they need for success par that one crucial melodic thrust – though in songs like Jamaica and You’re My Rescue they show the room remains for that to come forward. With that in mind, let’s not write them off just yet.