2001 – Tugboat – 43 minutes
If this band's name evokes memories of cheap'n'cheerful childhood fizzy drinks, then it's a perfect association. No, 'The Hill For Company' is not bubbly gut-rot, but an innocent, supremely refreshing collection of songs. The down-under duo of Sodastream bring to mind hues of Smog, The Dirty Three and Will Oldham without sinking into stodgy derivative sands. Their unique sound shares the same understated brilliance of another excellent duo, The Kings of Convenience, but without the harmonies and quirkiness.
It's difficult not to be swept away by this album with an opening track like 'Heaven on the Ground'. Hooks of gentle guitars and road-movie strings reel in the listener – and it just gets better from there. 'Mood In The Bunker' combines Smith's plaintive vocals, camp-fire melodies and wide-eyed hope. 'Devil On My Shoulder' is a twisted shard of heartbreak, haunted by pianos and strings while 'Send My Love To Those Who Deserve It' is a wearied paean of love and life.
These songs are quiet and reflective but they successfully sidestep the stilted introspection that singer/songwriters find it difficult to avoid. There are plenty of American bands doing the rounds with soulless guitar/strings/piano combos. Despite their musical infancy, Sodastream do it so much better, having carved a beautifully humble niche for themselves. Perhaps they're in need of some company other than the hill, because this album puts them in a league of their own.
Tracklisting: Heaven On The Ground - Lushington Hall - Trouble On The Railway - Fresh One - Mood In The Bunker - Welcome Throw - A Drum - Real Prince - Devil On My Shoulder - Another Trial - Send My Love To Those Who Deserve It