You probably know him as a casual presenter on Triple J or a finalist in Channel [V]’s presenter comp. Perhaps you’ve seen his face on the side of a bus advertising Vodaphone or Coca Cola? Well now Sydney media-man Brendan Maclean is making a name for himself at the other end of the entertainment spectrum; as a singer/songwriter. If his latest offering, White Canvas, is anything to go by, he should just quit his many day jobs and pursue this newfound creative medium full time.
Why’s that? Let’s start at the beginning…
Opening track ‘Practically Wasted’ is an edgy melee of kick drum, megaphonic vocals, digital paraphernalia and distortion pedals, creatively simulating the chaotic and aggressive mind frames one experiences during a state of extreme intoxication. With roller coaster highs and lows illustrated in dramatic shifts of tempo, instrumentation and melody, a raw consistency is still kept up throughout the piece.
‘Cold and Happy’ is an honest and brilliantly suburban number with a cute, familiar quality to it. “I found ten bucks. I’ll take you out for a feast at my local supermarket… we can wine and dine in the middle of the road.” With upbeat backing ‘bub bub’ vocals, a cappella breaks and brilliantly layered harmonic swirls, it’s much more happy than cold.
Maclean brings the mood down a little with contemplative ballad, ‘Beat Me To It’. Again, the piano is strong, contrasting nicely with defeatist vocals and soft jazz drums. ‘Stop’ follows on, amping the energy back up with ballsy cabaret-style piano and organ. Again, the soaring vocals shine though amongst punchy rhythmic breaks, giving it an edgy momentum, culminating in a full choir adding to the atmospheric party ending.
Title track, ‘White Canvas’, closes the show on a sombre note with a collaborative ode to the chameleons of the world. “I’m white on white canvas” croons the final ensemble, lead by Maclean, taking a lengthy break before ending the tune with simple piano and the ambient resonance of closing doors, stomping feet, dripping taps and rumbling traffic, perfectly sealing the mood of closure.
White Canvas is an eclectic and beautifully frenetic showcase of Macleans outstanding musicianship and songwriting talents. Each perfectly structured recording is tight and emotionally evocative. Maclean himself has an almost Ben Folds type quality in his brash piano and bold vocal statements but can then seamlessly change tact, signalling an obtuse and contemplative mode not unlike Lior or Ryan Adams.
My only criticism is that with such heavy instrumental and vocal collaborations, the latter tunes on the EP are somewhat weighed down or turned into epic ballads, with repetitive hooks that distract the listener from the likeable simplicity of the record as a whole. Still, a great effort from a man we’ll most definitely see more of in the future, in many a creative medium.