They say things aren’t like they were in the good old days. Well, that may be right. But then again, it may be wrong – and if the new EP by Iluka is anything to go by, it’s certainly and terrifically wrong.
After recording her debut EP in 2009 – with Ollie McGill of The Cat Empire, no less – Nikki Thorburn, the name behind the Iluka moniker, has spent time performing in the music scenes of Europe. Since returning, she has featured on triple j and late last year completed a tour of the eastern states. She is currently residing in Sydney, where she is performing alongside McGill. It’s few musicians who have so many musical notches on their belts, especially before reaching their second decade.
Eyes Closed is not like the kind of music they were playing in classy cocktail bars of old, it is that kind of music. Well, it sure as sugar would be if Thorburn, the tantalisingly talented songstress that she is, was born in the ‘30s. Instead, she was born sixty years later – and so we are lucky enough to have her in our own time.
Thorburn’s vocals are stunningly mature. But wait, don’t read: ‘for her age’. The fact that she is so surprisingly young is a mere trifle – interesting, but by no means should it impinge on how we judge her. Some vocalists – take Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, or more recently, Eva Cassidy or even Kimbra – have that effortlessly timeless quality that would see them reach musical success in whichever age they lived. Thorburn is one of these.
In the first track, ‘Eyes Closed’, Thorburn sings playfully, her words skipping around the melody. Her sweet, yet full voice is complemented perfectly by the cool hand of the double bass and the drum brushes. Impressively, the presence of electric guitar – in this reviewer’s humble opinion, the surest way to poison any tune by evoking the image of sleazy, third-rate lounge jazz – does not particularly detract from the song. This joyfully charming number even features that hallmark of happiness, whistling.
From here, the ‘Eyes Closed’ steadily becomes more sedate, transitioning well from its upbeat opening to the heartbreakingly lovely closing, ‘How Heartbeats Go’, with not a filler to be found.
With music such as this, there really is no need to keep your eyes open.
– Serrin Prior