Review: Devon Sproule & Mike O’Neill – Colours

Dev AND Mike

4.5

The coming together of musicians is always an exciting prospect, whether it’s feature slots on singles or collaborative festival shows; but to have two artists, who are both known for their creative genre spanning styles and songwriting talents, come together to create an entire record is something else altogether. The origin of Colours is as unique and unusual as the origin of Devon Sproule herself – having been born to hippies in an ecovillage – the album coming together after O’Neill submitted a reply to Devon’s musical project Low-Key Karaoke, in which she creates video duets from random submissions and her own harmonies. Soon after they were writing songs together, and so now, in a lucky turn of fate, we have Colours, an album that is a terrific showcase of the ample talent that has made it.

In true laid back Devon Sproule style, Colours begins with an atmospheric drum beat and the short rings of a guitar as You Can Come Home wafts in like the floating scent of a familiar pie on the windowsill. As soon as her voice sets in, that carefree American drawl that makes for such easy listening, it’s obvious that this album has even more personality and maturity than her previous work. The opening track drifts into a crashing peak, and, though led by Devon, begins with a no holds barred example of their combined powers. As if in reply, Magic In The Panic begins with O’Neill lamenting that he ‘can’t go home’ and together they aptly sing that they ‘need someone to be there’. As their voices intertwine and the cymbals begin to crash, you realise that they haven’t just hit on two voices that can harmonise, but perfectly complimentary musical ideals.

With next track You Can’t Help It, the lackadaisical openers seem to open out into a more bouncy, twangy, and altogether more personal style. As they sing about the goodness in others, you can’t help but imagine them singing to each other with appreciative smiles. With this track, and indeed with the album as a whole, they manage to do something that is so difficult in a collaboration, to create a song that feels like it’s personally attached to both of them. And, at the risk of sounding corny here, they really can’t help being so good for each other, because, as that country vibe strums along behind them, it really feels like they have a deep musical history together.

Colours, as a whole, is like being given a snapshot of some perfect, carefree life that O’Neill and Sproule have crafted for themselves. The Fan is the musical equivalent to a humid day spent watching the world go by, and as Sproule sings of the fan going ’round and round’, you really can feel the world peacefully passing you by. Title-track Colours and sugary offering The Fire Inside both prove that it’s not just country-edged low-fi synth that they can offer, but clever, catchy pop melodies too. Talk To You is perhaps the best example of O’Neill’s influence, as the grand horns and uplifting lyrics show perfectly what you can do with two traditional voices when you infuse a lively, optimistic pop energy into them.

Colours seems to take you on a journey through the pair’s respective influences, with synth overlays, masterful harmonies, playful lyrics and room for both the dark, delicate moods of album closer The Shallow End¸ and effortlessly heartening tracks like Colours. This album of gratifying material has certainly come at the right time, because if there was ever a cure for the oncoming cold of winter, then this is it. From start to finish it instils in you a wonderful carefree feeling, and effortlessly takes you back to those trouble-free, languid days of summer.

Josh King