Review: Sparkadia - The Great Impression

SparkadiaThe Great Impression Ivy League

Many musicians believe a band's second studio album carries the most difficulty. For Sparkadia's Alex Burnett this could well ring true.

After recording Sparkadia's 2008 debut album 'Postcards' as part of a four-piece, Burnett found himself a solo artist when it came to recording the band's new album, The Great Impression.

Sparkadia formed in 2004 under the name, The Spark. The band changed their name to Sparkadia in 2006, releasing their debut EP in 2007.

Shortly after the EP's release, Sparkadia secured more than 30,000 downloads in two months for one of the EP's singles, 'Morning Light' on Australian youth radio station, Triple J and caught the interest of UK label, Ark Recordings.

The international interested continued after the band released 'Postcards', with the album's first single, Animals, receiving high rotation on BBC Radio One.

Extensive touring followed with Sparkadia sharing stages with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Elbow, Tegan & Sara, The Thrills, Vampire Weekend, Modest Mouse, Hot Hot Heat and Pet Shop Boys.

Ironically it was the touring schedule that turned out to be a difficulty for a number of the band members, with Sparkadia becoming Burnett's side project in 2009.

Since the split with members Tiffany Preece, Dave Hall, Nick Rabone and Josephine Avling (in 2008), Burnett has worked with Mark Tieku (Florence and the Machine) on 'The Great Impression'.

The Great Impression is a stunning solo release for Burnett.

The title track has an instant appeal to it. Whether it's Burnett's sweet vocals or the medally of back up vocals, lively drums and percussion, the track just dances along.

Burnett's vocals are stripped back on 'Fingerprints' with Sparkadia's earlier keenness on electric guitar intros now obviously absent.

'Talking Like I'm Falling Down Stairs' is the only track on the album that has links to the band's former self. There is a feeling that this track may have been worked on by members of Sparkadia before the split or just after. There is a fullness about this track, as though Burnett was able to play off the energy of other members. That's not to say by any means that the rest of the album is empty or has a feeling of being incomplete. Perhaps this track just has more of a 'Postcards' feel.

'China' has a boldness to it. The brash big band sound in its chorus gives the track much needed volume and depth. While Burnett's vocals are beautiful, there is something lacking in the overall lyrics that just seem a little simplistic:'she breaks like China'. The saving grace of this track is Burnett's amazing ability to build much needed tension in a chorus.

On 'Mary', Burnett drops his softness by stretching his vocal range and introducing gospel style harmonies.

The tempo is turned up on 'The Lost Ones'. Alongside 'The Great Impression', this track is a standout. There is an ease to this track, a happy pace.

Burnett has done a remarkable job with this album. To continue on as Sparkadia is a brave move, and one that he has succeeded in.