In this, their fourth studio album, Something For Kate
present their most polished offering to date. The Official Fiction
is musically a natural progression from 2001ís release, Echolalia
, seeing the band produce a record comprised mostly of accessible rockíníroll songs, with the band expanding the simple formula by experimenting with additional instruments to expand their three-piece sound (some songs on the record see the band performing with as many as eight pieces). There is a consistent depth of harmony on this album that for better or worse sets this apart from the bandís previous releases, and is the result of both the expanded instrumentation present on many of the songs, as well as a product of carefully layered vocal harmonies (many of them multitracked by singer/guitarist Paul Dempsey, ranging from simple harmony lines to singing counter-melodies across his own vocals) alongside the presence of three acclaimed vocalists as guests; Lisa Germano, Caitlin Cary of Whiskeytown
, and Grant Lee Phillips of Grant Lee Buffalo
. Fans of the band will notice an immense shift in sound between this release and earlier efforts such as 1997ís Elsewhere For Eight Minutes
Stylistically, the shift away from guitar oriented songs and toward more cohesively orchestrated compositions places the focus of this record on layered harmonies. While the vocals of Paul Dempsey have always been in the spotlight, this shift in musical emphasis means that the album highlights them more than ever, and as a vocalist this record is arguably the best work of his career. Paulís strong voice is often a hit or miss affair for listeners of the band due to its unique sound and texture, though as this album demonstrates, there is no question of his pitch, control, and ear for harmony.
The two songs featuring Lisa Germano (Light At The End Of The Tunnel
and Reverse Soundtrack
) are the least densely orchestrated of the album, with violin and cello being the only additional instruments. The slowest paced songs on the disc, these tracks leave the vocals prominent and isolated over subtle musical backgrounds, with the instrumental parts panned and arranged to create subtle soundscapes rather than the strong progressions heard on the majority of the other tracks, which are typically moderately paced rockíníroll songs such as the country-rock influenced single Moving Right Along
, and the more driving rock song Asleep At The Wheel
, which sees the band performing in their more familiar three-piece setting, throwing the focus back on Paulís guitar work and the absence of guest vocalists leaving him to perform his own harmonies (particularly notable in the bridge). Fans who preferred the sound of Echolalia
will most likely gravitate to this track, while songs such as Souvenir
provide a happy medium between the more fully orchestrated songs and the driving three-piece rock sound, keeping an upbeat, guitar driven feel while tastefully arranged violin and cello tracks provide subtle colouration.
The majority of songs in the albums fit inbetween the two ends of the spectrum described above, typically being moderately paced, conventionally structured rock songs featuring the bandís usual guitar, bass and drums with the addition of keyboard and occasional strings to thicken the harmonies and add depth and density to the songs. This style is well represented in the three other singles released from the album, Dťja Vķ
, Song For A Sleepwalker
and Best Weapon
. The first single from the album, Dťja Vķ
is a definite stand-out track, fitting a great deal of dynamic variation and musical content into the form of a radio compatabile rock song. This track builds to be, along with Kaplan/Thornhill
, one of the most densely orchestrated songs on the album, seeing the band effectively perform as an eight-piece when joined by four-piece string ensemble The Section
. Lyrically, the album is consistent with the Paulís previous work, giving his own individual observations and impressions of things, whether they are introspective or social in nature. The album features three tracks; Best Weapon
, Letter To The Editor
and No Manís Land
that are very reflective of the social environment at the time the album was written. No Manís Land
is of special note because it features the great guest vocals of Grant Lee Phillips, whose voice works very well with Dempseyís, adding a little extra to the album closer, which sees the band finish the record with another more stripped back rockíníroll song, fading out over a jam outro that recalls the outro to Twenty Years
from their previous album.
Overall, the album is a well written and well produced collection of melodic rockíníroll songs. The record doesnít have quite the same level of variety in song styles as previous efforts such as Echolalia
, though a level of diversity is maintained instead through a good deal of dynamic variation in the songs as well as through the presence of the guest vocalists and string players. The production on the album deserves special mention, as the often densely layered sounds are carefully arranged, especially when it comes to the many guitar overdubs and multi-tracked vocal harmonies present on a number of the songs. The Official Fiction
was recorded in Mangrove Studios in Sydney, with production by Trina Shoemaker. The Section
were recorded at Quiet Street Studios in Los Angeles, with additional recording at Sunset Studios.
The Section are Eric Gorfain on first violin, Daphne Chen on second violin, Leah Katz on viola, and Richard Dodd on cello. They appear on tracks 4 and 7.
Kathryn Brownhill played the violin on tracks 3,8,9 and 10.
Catherine Tabrett played the cello on tracks 5,8 and 10.
Something For Kate are Paul Dempsey on guitar/vocals, Stephanie Ashworth on bass guitar, and Clint Hyndman on drums.