GOOD MORNING / PRIZE // REWARD
It’s often said that the art of letter-writing is dead. In an age where new communication technology seems to be multiplying every day, those slower means of connecting with others are seemingly fading into obscurity. When I was younger, my mum used to often write short letters to me and tuck them under my pillow as I slept before she left for work in the evening. The rift of experience created by our separation felt healed by the immediacy of her handwritten account of her day and a ‘good night’ scrawled on the back of a shopping list. I’d write back, fill up my page with mundane things like homework, gold stars, playground dramas. The margins of the paper swelled with my drippy biro drawings. We used that space to make even the mundanities of everyday life traverse those passages of time which we had missed from each other. This epistolary back-and-forth with my mum garnered a cabinet of moments poured out, tumbled over, smudged and mingled with joy, calm, affection and alienation. Personal letters not only disclose our most intimate thoughts and feelings, but they also reveal choices we make about how to express those feelings—using our words, our art, or perhaps verses pulled from our favourite poems. But now, when I write to other people, I can’t capture that same sense of immediacy felt within the unedited writing which flowed from my younger pre-teen self. I often write—and then rewrite—crossing out things, agonizing over small ‘writerly’ details, and continually checking that it makes sense. But in this impulse to ‘draft’ letters, instead of just letting the feelings flow onto the paper naturally, the organic rhythms of daily life seem to get lost. The modern-day equivalent of ‘instant’ messaging reads like a spoken conversation, but there can be breaks of time between responses, where the conversation stops or starts again. Handwritten letters leave behind the traces of musings which are easily discarded online by the tap of a backspace button.
In their debut album Prize//Reward, the Melbourne-based duo Good Morning reclaim the sparkling immediacy and rawness which are often lost to the project of perfection. Stefan Blair and Liam Parsons strip away formulated levels of production to give a more supine and unadulterated sound; it’s as though they languorously roll out of bed to write a affectionate bleary-eyed ‘good morning’ to their listeners. Like the fragmented and yet fortified chain of memories in my letters to my mum, Prize//Reward is an assembly of scattered insights, an endearing patchwork of laid-back melodies. In expressing a real and mature sensitivity, Good Morning lets the seams show. With lo-fi distortion bound up with infectious melodies, the album ambles along, filled with unique flourishes to catch your ear.
Weaving together surfing soundscapes reminiscent of Real Estate and early Deerhunter, Prize//Reward guides us through a warm June day. Headphones in as we walk down sun-soaked leafy suburbs, picturesque residential neighbourhoods encircled by Lorne beaches. Good Morning tempers the perceived ‘relaxed’ mood of slacker-pop with a darker melancholic edge, moving beyond the confines of their genre and comparisons with their contemporaries. Rather than force the listener to re-think the merits of sparkling guitar-led indie-pop, the band open up their sound to incorporate a variety of new instruments. Documenting a panic attack experienced whilst shopping, ‘Escalator’ meanders around the shiny alleys of the plaza, drifting between states. It sounds familiar, but at the same time, dabbles in experimentation. Bubbling sounds playfully fade in and out of its insistent, simple drum pattern. Melancholic piano lines wrap around crooning vocals in ‘Who’s to Blame’, and the saxophone solo gently ruminates on those past moments of anxiety and reverie. The lines of ‘After You’ linger in my head. The song tenderly reflects upon the solitary moments within love and relationships, finding peace in sorrow through an unadorned lyricism: ‘So don’t feel like it’s bad to cry / Or to straighten up before you die’. The song traces the blankness you feel when you lose yourself in other people, when you sacrifice your unique dimensions in order to fit their blueprint of you: ‘they don’t know what’s in your mind / So when there’s people coming after you / You gotta rip it up and start anew’. The song’s count-in, ‘Huh, one, two, three’, simultaneously relaxes us, slows us down, and warms us with the humbling rustiness of the band’s bedroom recording.
It’s music made for the end of a rooftop barbecue, when the sun sinks, the beer is nearly gone, and everyone who doesn’t want to be there has left. Here, you can be honest, inquisitive, even silent; all of it is accepted without a dissenting word. That relaxed sincerity is also what correspondence between family, lovers, and companions is grounded in. In this bond resides confessions and unguarded moments, a desire to keep information safe from another person—but also the will to allow each other a comfort to be more vulnerable, more embroiled in each other’s practices. Good Morning lets listeners into this relaxed dialectic. Recording at their own pace, across two years and five different houses, the band’s debut album is fragmented, but not disunited—conceived as a whole, the various sounds; the melodic saxophone, the sighs, rhythmic stutters–revel in everyday idiosyncrasies. It reminds me that ‘art’ of letter-writing is not so much a perfect composition of a memory or feeling, as it is a materialization of often hazy, ongoing mental processes—with all its multiple, imperfect edges.