Sydney post-punk four piece Sounds Like Winter have been busy over the last couple of years; from releasing their debut LP to touring extensively around Australia (and New Zealand) whilst maintaining a revolving roster of band members. The lineup has now settled down with Ant Banister (vocals/synths), Andi Lennon (guitars and vocals), Adrian Leppard (bass) and Leticia Olhaberry (drums). Former bass player, Matt Judge, contributed to the new album but has since left - although Sticks and Stones has been released on his label Fundamental Illness Records.
Lennon’s frenetic guitar heralds the start of album in opener 'Blood Red' and, accompanied by Olhaberry’s rapid drum rolls, immediately creates a sense of urgency that is only just contained by Judge’s melodic bass lines. Out of the dark cacophony, Banister intones ominously from his gothic pulpit: “There’s a grey sky, I’m cold inside. What is the measure of a man if he can’t heed advice?”. Within minutes it becomes apparent that their sound is distinctively heavier than their debut - a progression that is also reflected in Banister’s vocal delivery and lyrics. This is carried through on 'Impossible Dreams' with the band (literally) stamping their authority on a harder aesthetic.
Knowing your place is the order of the day on title track 'Sticks and Stones', where the privileged class sneer at those beneath them whilst engaging in pure hedonism. It strides deep into Goth territory with ratcheting guitars and sublime bass lines, while Andi Lennon shares the vocal duties with Banister. Lennon’s infectious delivery is reminiscent of Peter Murphy and contrasts extremely well with Banister’s monotone. The pecking order is raised again on 'Beasts Of England', where Lennon quotes directly from Orwell’s Animal Farm, repeating the maxim “Some animals are more equal than others. Always in the end, some animals are more equal than others”.
One of the standout tracks is 'The Life Of The Just'. Angular guitars are replaced by majestic sweeping synth, revealing an alternative glimpse of Sounds Like Winter and what they are capable of. Banister’s hymn-like vocals and Olhaberry’s restrained drumming are an exquisite pairing, and one can only imagine how this would sound live.
Sticks and Stones is the sound of a band that is willing to push boundaries, but not wanting to reveal its full hand just yet. They have already carved out a name for themselves on the Sydney post punk scene and this record will only take them further.