Gap Year ready to graduate with remarkably assured debut Flat Out
June 11, 2021
Review By: Graham
Perth five-piece indie band Gap Year’s album Flat Out is a confident and consummate debut that evokes WA suburban life, and never wavers in quality throughout an album of mild, melodious and catchy indie-pop.
The five-piece have been together since early 2019 and have a very clear idea of how to blend their disparate elements into dynamic and distinct sound. Flat Out successfully blends the talents of its two songwriters, Daniel Harrison and Lee Napper, with bassist Maddy Blue contributing vocals and adding texture to several tracks. These three are complemented by Ben Santostefano on drums and drum machine and Jake Chaloner on guitar and keys.
The album, written between January and June 2020, and released on May 5 by the Blue Grey Pink label, will surely be on many end-of-year lists of the best West Australian albums of the year. Daniel and Lee have immediately distinct styles, but each are earthy and honest, with lyrics ranging from describing everyday suburban life in WA – “Gotta fix the pipes / The retic’s old but the challenge is what you want” (Flat Out) – to strained relationships – “Take me off my guard again / Use me as your stepping stone instead” (So Sad to See). Having one good songwriter in a band should never be taken for granted - having two is definitely a luxury!
Daniel’s track Dot and Tarlene opens the album and gives a good representation of the overall sound of the group, reminiscent of the best features of 80s Australian acts such as The Church and The Go-Betweens. Lee’s slow and sweet DFA brings the remarkable debut album to a close without it having ever dipped in quality.
The five musicians are all highly capable, but we need to keep some of our praise for the production team. The care that has obviously gone into the recording and mixing process means every note is clearly captured, and the levels are just right – no instrument is too prominent, and nothing is buried in the mix. As much as the band members should rightly be praised for their contributions, Rhien Tan (engineering and producing) and Michael Jelinek (mastering) also deserve a lot of credit for achieving such a professional and self-assured sound.
My only gripe about this album was that I liked it so much I just wanted it to go a little longer - a tenth track would have been nice. This is an excellent release from start to finish, which deserves to have a much wider audience. After the difficult period the local music industry has been though (more annus horribilis than gap year) it is safe to say that Perth’s Gap Year are ready for the big time!
Flat Out is now available for purchase on Bandcamp and iTunes.
It can be streamed in all the usual places.
An extremely limited run of cassettes (only 23 copies!) dubbed by Space Cassette is also available for purchase on Bandcamp.