Album closer ‘Don’t Teach Me To Sing’ is about as intimate as it gets. With only a guitar by her side, Tickle sings defiantly: “Don’t teach me to sing, I have my own voice”. And what a voice it is.

Little Scout is a band of curious juxtapositions. On the one hand, the centre and spiritual heart of the Queensland quartet is the gorgeous, honey-sweet vocals of Melissa Tickle. In stark contrast is the dark, at times abrasive music that tugs at Tickle’s heels, like a forest of shadows forever threatening to swallow her, but never quite succeeding.

Are You Life – Little Scout’s second full-length – opens with the title track, an excellent three-minute slice of bruised dream pop. After an initial burst of frayed beats, Tickle’s pristine, reverb-drenched voice takes centre stage, singing: “Are you fired up? Are you life?” Before long the sparse opening gives way to a jagged, distorted groove. The razor sharp guitar grows and swells, expanding from the fringes, threatening to take over. By song’s end, music and voice become one, a glorious tangle of effects-saturated noise.

If Tickle’s voice is the angelic face of Little Scout, then the drum and bass combination are the band’s indefatigable backbone, its secret weapon. These aren’t guitar-driven songs. The bulk of the album stems from precise, muscular drum and bass grooves, which build and expand exponentially. Take ‘March Over To Me’, for example, with its foreboding drum and bass rumble. Or lead single, ‘Go Quietly’. The drums and bass anchor the song, giving Tickle’s effects-laden, double-tracked vocals the freedom to soar into space. The second half of the album takes the foot off the pedal and suffers somewhat as result. That said, there are still some lush, tender moments.

3.5/5 stars


Are You Life is out now through MGM.

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