Pocket Fox - Birch Leaves (Album Review)

Australian indie collective Pocket Fox have been disseminating tightly-knit and cosy indie folk since their self-titled EP was released in 2011. The eight songs on their recent album "Birch Leaves" rotate between camp-fire sing-alongs and more downtempo adult contemporary. Most notably, the group operate on a theatrical form of folk which borders on vaudeville, imbuing their naturalistic songs with dramatic performances which, at times, can sound like an Amanda Palmer biopic scored by Danny Elfman, at others like a down-and-out-street busker who is suddenly accompanied by a marching band. These carefree excursions culminate in an entertaining, if not at times eccentric and self-aware, collection of songs.   

The slow-burning opening track "Birch Leaves" has an idiosyncrasy in the performance, and the minimal arrangement lends mystique to the folkloric aspect, a naturalistic celebration of life through music as if creating songlines for their wandering sounds to exist upon. While Pocket Fox are whimsical in their rambling writing and celebratory delivery, they can also take the pastiches associated with the folk umbrella and run with them. Such is the case for the barn-dance, cotton-eye-joe nature of "Books & Stuff" or the lachrymose sentimentality of "Open on Sundays", the beautiful horn section of which saves it from being a purely maudlin affair. 

More often, their collaborative expressions of purity and hope can culminate in enlivening tracks like "Patterns", which opens with atmospheric tones before its catchy melody is joined by clambering percussion and mischievous trumpets. Likewise, the ebullient "Stitch You Up" sees a stew of instruments bounce around vocalist Luciana Harrison's memorable refrains ("I wish I could be the one to stitch you up again"). On this track, perhaps a stand-out on an album with a few other contenders, all elements serve each other towards a comprehensive and well-thought-out slice of dark cabaret. 

Elsewhere, the duetting vocals of "Bones", often nasally and off-key, fare better when the vocalists collide in orchestral sweeps. The jazzy-folk of "Shufflin" evolves to raucous and unhinged, seemingly formless, asservations, though it is a light-hearted exercise by nature, and its childlike sense of play can be contagious. As all roads lead to Rome, all songs on Birch Leaves seem to build up to "What's Right For You", the closing track, which utilizes the group's proclivity for equally fun and profound musicality and a memorably playful ostinato to create a song that gets stuck in the noggin' and leaves a pleasant aftertaste to the melange of temperments on offer.   

Birch Leaves by Pocket Fox doesn't always hit the right notes but is guided well enough by the group's intuition and synergetic playing styles to ensure that its overwrought songs are given adequate care and opportunity to grow by a band more than capable of creating character-filled and scenic worlds.