Although Australian singer-songwriter Josh Pyke has been releasing music professionally since 2005, he has only been a very recent (but welcome) discovery for me. While renowned in his home country, he does not appear to have made a big break elsewhere yet, which is a real shame. Pyke’s perfectly crafted indie-folk-pop music would undoubtedly please a lot of music lovers.
In October 2013, I happened to hear Pyke on a 2011 track with Mike Rosenberg (aka Passenger) titled “What You’re Thinking.” I was immediately taken by the lovely harmonies his middle to lower register added to Passenger’s unique and almost falsetto pitch. And so, as I do with any new discovery, I sought out Pyke’s other work online and was pleasantly surprised to find quite an extensive discography of both full-length albums and EPs. I was drawn immediately to his latest album, The Beginning and the End of Everything, and in particular the first single, “Leeward Side.” To describe this song as catchy would be a major understatement. With its energetic use of harmonica, a bass drum line reminiscent of Paul Simon’s brilliant “Obvious Child,” and an uplifting message about shaking off your safety net and living life head on, this is indie-pop perfection.
The entire album is lyrically and melodically beautiful, and has stood the test of continued start-to-finish listens on my trusty iPod. Lead off track “Bug Eyed Beauty” is a lovely introduction that displays Pyke’s rich voice and intricate acoustic guitar ability.
The album’s title track, “The Beginning and the End of Everything” brings to mind The Shins, The Beatles, and Split Enz. If a song can do this, all while sounding remarkably unique as well, the artist has done something right. I also love the universality of the lyrics: “And at times we all may feel we’re lost in orbit like forgotten satellites/Never drawing nearer to that brilliant sun we’re all just hanging around/But every idea exists somewhere in the ether to be found.”
Slower and mid-tempo tracks, “Haunt You Love,” “Warm in Winter,” “All the Very Best of Us”(co-written and performed with fellow Aussie Holly Throsby), “White Lines Dancing” and “Stories That Get Told” feature lush arrangements, and soothing harmonies. Faster tracks “Feet of Clay” and “Horse’s Head” further display Pyke’s lyricism, strong tonality, and knack for writing toe tapping, catchy melodies. Special mention goes to “Order Has Abandoned Us.” With its slow tempo yet contrastingly quick and lilting banjo picking, a sweeping brass arrangement, and beautiful harmonies, this is a definite favourite; like nothing I’ve heard before.
The Beginning and the End of Everything is definitely one of few albums I can just play through without feeling the urge to skip over any songs. And as an added bonus, each time I listen to it, I discover something new to love about each song. From a chord change, a harmony or an instrument I hadn’t heard before, to a meaningful lyric, I can’t say enough about this collection of songs. And while the lyrics are descriptive and poetic, Pyke doesn’t give anything away in his songwriting. I don’t pretend to understand what each song is about, but I have always felt like this is an added bonus. It makes the listener really think about and/or invest in the songs’ meanings, and as a result makes the experience of discovering an artist more personal and rewarding.
Have a look for live performances of many of Pyke’s songs. Several videos are posted online of his “one man shows” where he loops instruments and harmonies. They are fascinating to watch and a true testament to his talent!
The Beginning and the End of Everything is available on iTunes.
Written by Valerie