The Nymphs album review

13 January 2011

Written by: Renee Tibbs

I really didn’t know what to expect when I popped on this six-track self-titled debut EP from all-girl Australian outfit The Nymphs. The cover art doesn’t give much away: four birds kitted out in vintage Hawaii-themed halter neck frocks standing against a powder-blue background, with ‘The Nymphs’ proudly outlined in red. But flick it over and the reverse-view of their backs with one girl scratching her bum gives you a wee hint. They’re funny. They’re not in any way precious. But more than that, they’re four very talented lasses who have managed to put out a unique and very listenable EP.

On paper it shouldn’t work. The songs are mostly a cappella, with some piano bars ladled here and there throughout the album. It’s sparse, but the four-part vocal harmonies suffice just on their own; the initial ‘where are all the instruments’ moment falls away almost instantly when you realise what they’re trying to do. The songs for the most part are crisp and beautiful. And funny. Did I mention funny? I popped it on whilst I was whipping up a particularly cracking spag-bol and had a few laugh-out-loud moments in my kitchen.

Opener After Eight sets the tone, a lovely lilting piano introduces the first singer (it sounds like all four girls take a verse each) who extols the virtue of ‘a drink round about tea-time’, and then all chime in for the chorus, where we are told that, of course, ‘happiness starts after eight’.

And the songs sort of follow on from each other from then on, blending together in a most charming way. They use some subtle techniques, such as the radio sound on the opening track, finger-clicks on short-but-sweet Song For Two (which also features some particularly beautiful vocals) and even some understated barbershop effects (penultimate track Paper Dolls). There’s some Abbey-Road era Beatles harmonies (My Deadly Rabbits) and some Chordettes-style scooby-doo-wa on album closer Mr Slink, which is a total romp, packed with excellent, fun lyrics and the album highlight.

Comparisons to The Andrew Sisters are inevitable. But even though the similarities are there it’s more homage from The Nymphs than straight-up copying – that’s the last thing this album sounds like. The retro sound has been updated so that it sounds paradoxically modern, and the pure style that ekes out of your speakers is a total listening pleasure. They’re a highly talented group busting out some highly unique style. Give it a whirl – you’ll sing, you’ll dance, you’ll LOL.

Renee Tibbs is the current editor of upstart, and also blogs over at duck down the alleyway, where this review was originally published.