Oh, it has been so long since I listened to this album. For that reason alone, it has to be a Forgotten Gem, but it is so much more, believe me.
I don’t know how to describe J Walker, the man behind and responsible for the wondrous world of Machine Translations. For all you international readers (hi there, friends), the best way I can put this is that J is the Australian version of Eel’s main man, Mark Everett, or E, as he is known. The only difference is that J doesn’t seem to be as bogged down in bleakness as E often admits to being.
Happy, Walker’s fifth full length outing, continues his mostly-alone forays into the spaces between pop and folk. He enlists various key players along the way to help paint his sound-scapes, but more so, it is his abilities as a multi-instrumentalist and the often unusual instruments that carry the songs.
I know this might sound obvious but while listening to Happy, I can’t help but smile. Its not because the music is overly upbeat (some of its anything but) or is filled with great hooks (which it is) but it is the overall ambience. This is pure pop magnificence. Why we only have this album, though, is something we need to address, Mine.
VERDICT: TURN IT UP
I can't call it a Forgotten Gem, but I can call it a "Why haven't we got more of him?" When we first got Happy it was barely off the CD player. And it makes its way back there semi-regularly, but now my brief foray into research shows there are more albums! New albums! Begging to be bought!
Now, how can I explain my enthusiasm. I guess MT falls into the realm of stripped-back artists we love like M Ward... but also of experimental soundscapers like Sigur Ros. There are pure pop moments and other where the man behind the band - J Walker - has definitely gone mad with the buttons and loops. But even so, it's all good. Really. All of it! Especially She Wears A Mask which is so damn hummable it's been chasing me around all day.
Don't take my word for it, watch Amnesia. Then buy the album. And all his others, because that's what I intend we should do ASAP. If we did it for M Ward, we should do it for J Walker. (YourZ sez: great minds think alike, my love)
VERDICT: TURN IT UP
For more information: http://www.machinetranslations.org/