Andrew Reviews Charlie Collins’ “Snowpine”

Andrew Reviews Charlie Collins’ “Snowpine”

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Andrew from Brooklyn loves Australian music–that’s no secret–but one of his favorite Aussie acts of all time is the criminally underrated and now-defunct pop band Tigertown. One year on from their breakup, Tigertown frontwoman Charlie Collins has set off on a solo career with her debut album, Snowpine. A sonic ode to Western ballads of yore, the record stands out for its storytelling. Read Andrew’s Snowpine review below:

Charlie Collins is the Vic Fangio of Australian music.

Much like the longtime NFL defensive coordinator who recently got his first chance to take the reins as head coach of the Denver Broncos, Collins has been paying her dues in the industry for a long time. They’ve both had success in their previous ventures: Fangio at the helm of the New Orleans Saints’ vaunted “Dome Patrol” linebacking corps and the fearsome 49ers defenses of the early 2010s; and Collins was the lead singer of the brilliant indie pop outfit Tigertown. Now with the release of her solo debut Snowpine, Collins is the main attraction at long last. And while it remains to be seen how Fangio fares in his first head coaching gig, a few listens to Snowpine reveal it for what it is: a warm, glowing slice of nostalgia that’s a great companion to a summer night.

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Charlie Collins’ sound on this record is far different than the danceable synth-laden indie pop that you’d be accustomed to hearing if you were a fan of Tigertown in recent years. Spiritually, it’s closer to some of the band’s early material, like “What You Came Here For”–but “closer” does not mean alike. Really Snowpine sounds like part of a conversation started decades ago by the folk music of the American west, carried on by some of the finest female folk singers of the ’60s, and taken to new heights by the psychedelia of the 1970s. I’ve heard Collins’ music described as “if Stevie Nicks fronted the War On Drugs,” and while I wish I could take credit for my friend Larry’s assessment, I believe it hits the nail on the head. It evokes images of coyotes howling at the moon out on the prairie as cowboys shake themselves out of their stirrups and tie their horses to their posts for the night.

Collins’ voice is equal parts weighty and etherial, bringing memories of everyone from Hope Sandoval to Joan Baez and the aforementioned Nicks. However elucidating these comparisons are, though, they don’t do Collins justice. She brings a unique wrinkle to this style of music that none of these other artists do, nor could they. Because after all, the old western ballads are about telling stories–and Collins’ story is uniquely her own.

Charlie Collins. Source: Twitter.

 

She grew up in Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia, and has been playing in bands since she was 11 years old. The better part of this past decade was spent with Tigertown, which she formed with her husband Chris–one of Australia’s most in-demand producers–and his two siblings. The original lineup also featured Charlie’s brother Kurt, who subsequently left the band to manage the then fledgling Gang of Youths (they’ve since matured into one of Australia’s finest exports). Since Tigertown disbanded in early 2018, Collins has had Snowpine in the works, and it’s clearly the product of a healthy amount of catharsis.

Opening track “Unwell” relates its title feeling, and to start a record with a song that goes “I am just too broken to see anything for myself” is going to set the tone pretty strong. “Mexico” tells the story of escaping heartache by absconding to a faraway land–sort of the southern hemisphere’s version of Manic Street Preachers’ “Australia,” if you will. Perhaps the best example of Collins’ ability to draw from different musical traditions and craft a very distinct vibe with lyrics all her own is “Wish You Were Here.” The first song Collins released as a solo artist, it’s warm and comfy and familiar, slightly melancholic without being too sad. It’s drenched in longing, lyrically and sonically; the two parts of the song complementing each other perfectly, and showcasing Collins’ brilliance as a songwriter.

Charlie Collins may be a woman from small town Australia, but she can access some of the same sentiments made famous by music years ago, many miles away. And she can do it because not only is she a great musician and songwriter, but a great storyteller. And it’s about time that she has the opportunity to showcase that to the world.

Now it’s your turn, Fangio. The Broncos better be good this season.

Score: bees toasting marshmallows over an open fire under the Wyoming sky.

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