Breaking Hearts and Saving Souls (2012) ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Sydney fivesome Roland K Smith & The Sinners have their first EP to release Breaking Hearts and Saving Souls on August 1. It’s ideal for night time listening, to cuddle up to someone near or even enjoy alone. The band has had airplay on Triple J, FBi and 2ser and the melange of retro love songs, country ballads and modern lyricism gives the album a sense of timelessness that makes it a great listen.
The album literally is a collection of songs about breaking hearts and saving souls, with some feel-good ballads in between. The overall sound is reminiscent of a dusty American country town, not a cosmopolitan beachside city in Australia. Opening track ‘Saddest Eyes’ features bluegrass and country influences, while bringing in unconventional instruments like a mandolin, homemade junk percussion and glockenspiel. The triple j unearthed artist claims classic inspirations such as Bob Dylan, The Doors and Johnny Cash, and it’s evident that Roland has picked up on their instrumental and lyrical talent to create a story of his own through this album.
If anything, the groovy, twangy solos are a part of the songs to savour, as musical skill is developed and discovered during solo time. ‘Wait All Night’, homage to Bob Dylan with a whining singer longing for a girl, also has a killer solo. The track which seems to stand out the most to me is ‘Brightest Star’, a sad love ballad throwing back to the past and an attempt to grab at lost illusions, with farewelling sincere heartfelt lyrics like “It’s time to say goodbye”, “you can’t hold onto that bright star in the sky.
At first listen, I was reminded of The Traveling Wilburys (supergroup including Bob Dylan and George Harrison) – a compliment, given the masterful playing, clever arrangements and unique but raspy vocals. Roland’s voice can get a bit tiring after ten tracks and the percussion beats could be more innovative. However, all components work well together to create an authentic country atmosphere and the upbeat intros are attractive. ‘Stuck On You’ is an upbeat track about a good-looking girl and ‘The Train Song’ weaves in banjo strumming with a rock feel for a lively song.
The most admirable songs on the album are the slow, lyrical, raw tunes. ‘Cold Winter’ is a dynamic, emotional tune with a great beat and those addictive growling vocals. The dark, eerie feeling continues on in ‘Two Men’ where Roland channels Mark Lanegan’s rough yet alluring voice - “you’re the angel that haunts my dreams.” Final track ‘Dorothy’ ends the album with a bitter twist – it’s such a harmonious track with lyrics full of regret and a fragile delivery, “I did it all for you.”
Breaking Hearts and Saving Souls is a classic album to listen to in full – to take a trip down memory lane (or at least someone else’s experiences) on a chilly winter evening. It has upbeat tracks about friendship and sad ballads about heartache and love. Some songs can get a bit irritating with the country twang but there are some great tunes in there.