The brainchild of Brooklyn's Jed Smith, Ears Like Golden Bats is one of the year's most thrilling surprises, an album that wraps wry gallows humor in glistening guitars and whistling synths. No shrinking violet, Smith snatches the best bits of classic Antipodean bands like the Chills, the Bats, David Kilgour and the Go-Betweens and re-combines them in canny, charming ways. "To Live & Die in the Airport Lounge" is a majestic, Murmur-ing tangle of chords, the title track bounces a rubbery bassline across a bed of synths and "Depression Kicks" boasts a guitar line that would make Barney Sumner go green. Golden Bats offers the right kind of familiarity — it's a record that builds on rather than steals from.
Lyrically, Smith is a gleeful malcontent The first words on the record are "God bless the criminal," and its remainder is filled with tales of sad sacks and pessimists who never built a bridge they wouldn't burn. "Reversal," a canny re-write of the Chills '"Pink Frost," is one long festival of denial, Smith grimly intoning: "When you feel alright/ reversal!/ when you sail alright/ reversal!"
Golden Bats is a sparkling ode to cynical sentiment. At a time when dwindling attention spans have turned the record industry into a singles bar, Smith has written an album with nary a forgettable minute.