NEW MUSIC: Damien Binder – Here It Is

Damien Binder is back with his new single ‘Here It Is’, the first taste of his forthcoming fifth solo album. New Zealand readers will be familiar with the trajectory of his career which began as the frontman for Auckland post-punk band Second Child from the late 80s and through the 90s. Damien’s now based in Perth and has teamed up with producer Matt Gio for this first single that beautifully marries his moody alt-rock roots with a melancholic yet uplifting indie pop/rock feel.

The song is Binder’s first release since his 2016 album A New World, which garnered strong critical praise, is the first single from his fifth solo album currently in production with producer Matt Gio (Katy Steele, Birds of Tokyo, Abbey May, Rudimental), due for release later in 2021.

Of the new track and forthcoming record, Damien explains that “I wanted to try and break away from my usual choices and reimagine the songs. I had heard some of Matt’s work including one of my fave’s – Katy Steele’s ‘Human’, and knew together we could find a new context for the songs, plus he really liked them which helps!” 

‘Here It Is’ marks a distinct departure in Binder’s sound while still retaining the core elements of his distinctive songwriting style. It’s a multi-faceted example of the way his craft has evolved over the years.

At its core, the strength of Damien’s emotive and nuanced songwriting resonates strongly via the song’s universal themes and the way he seamlessly conveys both melancholy and optimism. Reflecting on the writing of ‘Here It Is’, Damien describes it as “a kind of meditation on appreciating the moment, gratitude and impermanence.”

On the surface the track sparkles and swerves with an indie pop production and sonic aesthetic courtesy of keyboards, digitally enhanced drums and acoustic guitar. You can also hear the distant and formative strains of Damien’s early musical years, in New Zealand band Second Child, via his ability to blend melody through the ever-shifting dynamics of the song.

REVIEW: DAMIEN BINDER – While The Wind’s At Your Back

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binderDamien Binder is a New Zealander now residing in Sydney who has been peddling his wares as a singer/songwriter for a decade now. In a prior musical life he fronted Auckland band Second Child who had were a different type of beast – louder and faster in a post punk, angular indie style. His progression to heart on sleeve troubadour was the logical step but from the evidence on this album it wasn’t a wise move.

At 55 minutes the mid tempo, middle of the road pop rock balladry wears thin very quickly. Binder’s voice inhabits a narrow frequency, never rising to a falsetto or dropping to a moody or intimate place to give some more colour to the album.

Unfortunately the comparisons will be made with the likes of David Gray, Pete Yorn and other non de script artists. There are hints that he could shift into Ryan Adams territory but they are only minor hints. Gotta Run carries a good atmosphere with its wistful guitar and shuffling drums and Damage does well by basing itself around piano rather than just guitar. Its chorus is a sweet, swaying melody that flows naturally.

Take Me Under attempts some nice Kinks 60’s pop flavours that work in the fashion of the more upbeat songs of Elliott Smith and Ron Sexsmith. The electric guitar that weaves its way through it is a standout of this and other songs on the album and hint that Binder would do well to add some weight to the sound of his songs throughout.

Twinkle finishes the album on a sombre note with Binder sitting comfortably in his singing range, not straining like he often does on other songs. It is nice lullaby in the style of Eels or local musician Mark Moldre and highlights how well Binder can structure and arrange the different elements of a song.

While The Wind’s At Your Back is a well executed album but let down by its lack of range and an identifiable personality. It drifts by when it should be drawing you in and it sits in a bland and (too) comfortable musical space. Binder seems to be scratching the surface of the emotions he addresses on the album and instead he should be tearing them open and diving in.