The Rational Academy
A Heart Against Your Own

[Someone Good,]

Following a couple of impossible-to-find 7" releases, Australian collective The Rational Academy finally gets around to releasing a proper debut. No surprise, "A Heart Against Your Own" is a record that is easy to sink one's teeth into. Though challenges present themselves at odd intervals, this is pop music in the avant sense of the word. Imagine a more wistful Lush or a more subtle Ride and add electronic and noise elements in little tid-bits and you'll get the picture. Vocalist Anna Arvan has a set of frail vocals that are most suited to the guitar/electronics blend the band sets out for her. Starting off with a couple of strong pop tunes - retro-sounding "The Author" and the melancholia of "JoJo Planteen" - the band then moves into a haunting, sparse ballad called "David". As if to show that they can hold their own in the rock category, the band blasts a fierce "Two Books". With hooks to spare, the guitars are fuzzy, and the vocals direct. Surprisingly enough, mid-way through the song, the band suddenly switches gears. Ambient, drone-scape bathed in electronic light emerges that continues until the song's very end. Highlight of the album is a nearly ten minute, almost purely instrumental "Squid & Whale". Though it starts off pleasantly enough, moving through jangly-guitar landscapes, soon enough, the listeners find themselves inside hollering noise concoctions that resembles a nightmarish cyclone. Once this dies down, Arvan comes alive with a hatful of whispered vocals to end it all. Hats off to guitarist Ben Frost, electronics guru Lawrence English, John Chantler and Carina Thoren on tape loops. In fact, all twelve members of this ensemble deserve a warm round of applause for pivotal roles in making this album as strong as it is. "A Heart Against Your Own" is sure to appeal to all romantics, those disillusioned and those looking for a different approach to making highly appealing, very melodic rock/pop/noise or whatever else one may want to call this music. Highly recommended!

  - Tom Sekowski

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