Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad: Luckless ‘Road Retreats’

Luckless - photo by Jenna Todd

Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad is a column which sees a panel of writers for The Corner review a range of local singles and grade them out of 10. Check out the song below, read through their opinions and let us know in the comments section your own thoughts and what you’d like to see reviewed next time around.

[Bandcamp]

[Grade: 6.3]

Alex Braae: No rush here. Luckless effortlessly take their time in building this one up. About two and a half minutes in they drop the ball. The momentum never quite returns.

It’s a glorious two and a half minutes though. Muted at first, pieces are steadily added to produce a haze of glowering neo-blues. Each of the turnarounds bring an increase in intensity.

The lyrics perfectly capture the mood of travelling somewhere you might not want to be. The King Country imagined as a gothic desert, perhaps not too far from the thoughts of many drivers on a long journey through the area.

If it were possible to give two marks, I would give the first two thirds a 9 and the last section a 4. I fell pretty hard after the chair was kicked out from under this song. But I was very taken by it still. So, [7]

Nick Braae: I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the lyrics of ‘Road Retreat’ aren’t as engaging as they initially appear. The opening line is direct, and evocative, but the refrain and other verses, perhaps, simply lack the emotional punch that they sought. If I can only be vague with respect to the words, then I can unequivocally state, on the other hand, that ‘Road Retreat’ is a textbook example of how to craft and shape a song; the delicate changes in texture, harmony, and vocal register provide a constant sense of movement and growth as the song progresses. Pulling all of this together was the juxtaposition between the connoted openness of the countryside and the highway and the song’s claustrophobic nature. As every new instrument comes into the mix, it sounds as if the singer is slowly being encased by a wall of sound; at the same time, there are layers of feedback and noise that are just hovering, going nowhere. Thus, despite my slight reservations about the lyrics, ‘Road Retreat’ is engaging and worthy of multiple listens; it deservedly belongs in a local artistic tradition of exploring the darker undertones of travelling through rural New Zealand. [8]

Chloe Cairncross: Grungy and angsty, this track would probably strike a chord with many a bored and emotional adolescent. “Smoke this broken beauty, raise the alarm; eat away your earthly faith leaving skeletal scars…” It reeks a bit of contrived and organised moodiness, specifically to target such an audience. I think that is why this track never really takes off for me, as much as I enjoy the muddy guitar sound. [5]

Stephen Clover: I’m not entirely sure but I think that the time that we were meant to have to listen to this sort of earnest, expressionistic, vaguely-incoherent adult contemporary rock music is well and truly over. ‘Road Retreats’ just makes me remember awful things from the past like Texas and U2, and for that I thank it not one bit. Two extra points for potential to be deployed usefully in a scene in some ‘dark’ film or TV show. [4]

Luke Jacobs: I really wish this song was a little shorter because it wasted so much time in the first third of the song to actually get going that it really felt like a lost opportunity to showcase some good songwriting.

The actual tone of the song is great and the production is good, although some more distinct panning would give it a sense of movement that it needs in order to deliver a punch to the song. ‘Road Retreats’ could be smokey, mysterious and captivating. It achieves a modicum of each but just doesn’t get over the line. [6]

Nick Raven: There is soul here. I feel it even with the opening guitar part. It’s crusty and driving and yet still tame and reserved like it’s willing itself to blow up. It’s dangerous and building, although the song drags a bit. In the end it doesn’t get there and I feel quite let down. Like sex without an orgasm. Still fantastic but just not quite enough. [6]

Gavin Coughlan: I loved this right from the first note. It’s slow, brooding riff is memorable, and is maintained throughout the song, building gently until the sudden climax. Ivy Rossiter’s voice is dramatic but not showy, and perfectly suited to the tone of the song. Their Bandcamp page describes Luckless as “two people who make melodic, neurotic, melancholic indie rock”, and that’s a pretty fair summing up of their sound. I hear a little bit of Rid Of Me-era PJ Harvey in there too, which is a very good thing in my book. Apparently they have a full-length out in July, and I’ll definitely be checking it out on the strength of this song. [8]

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