February 4 was the first big day of the year for new releases. Not only did the heavy-hitters kick off the month with new music; there were several lesser known artists who also delivered.
One of which was Partner Look, who released their debut LP, By the Book.
The most recent signing for the esteemed Chicago label, Trouble In Mind, who continuously make it their mission statement to scour the globe for the best new sounds, and with Partner Look they’ve unearthed yet another gem.
The Melbourne-based four-piece comprises of German sisters, Ambrin (Cool Sounds) and Anila Hasnain (Studio Magic), and their partners, Dainis Lacey (also of Cool Sounds) and Lachlan Denton (The Ocean Party). Together they bring us a brand of democratic jangle-pop that evokes the same kind of imagery you experience when taking that drive down the Great Ocean Road.
By the Book was completed in between one of the many Melbourne lockdowns which basically brought the city to its knees for much of 2021. Recorded in a Denton’s and Ambrin’s garage-cum-studio in the Melbourne inner-city suburb of Brunswick, By the Book was engineered by Lacey and mixed and mastered by Snowy Band’s Liam Haillwell.
It’s a bold move to start off an album with a song title mirroring your band’s name, not to mention referencing the album title, but that’s where Partner Look are different. A band tied together by close relationships (their first song was written for a friend’s virtual wedding during lockdown), it’s Partner Look’s way of opening the door for all and sundry. Then there’s the small matter of the song itself; an absolute beauty, drawing you in at the first note in a kind of twee Parquet Courts kind of way.
With woozy riffs and hypnotic synth, on Rodeo Tragic Partner Look use animals as composites to convey wider messages (“I’m just a horsey standing by the sea/ I’m just a horsey doing me”). While playful and simplistic on the surface, there’s a deeper significance at play here; it could be a “fuck you” to the racing industry and Australia’s gambling culture as much as it could be construed as kicking against the everyday rigours of death scrolling and losing sight of what’s important.
While Right Here possesses a certain muscle and melody the likes of The Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have been churning out for the past five years, Partner Look drop the gears during Leroy – a sleepy-eyed swoon that captures a day in the life of a cattle dog. Sonically, it’s designed for early mornings, with a groove that pierces through the noise of a whistling kettle.
The back half of By the Book sees Partner Look really coming into their own. There’s the hooping jangle of Deutschland. With a slicing riff and harmonies that melt the heart, it’s only outdone by Grasshopper. This is Partner Look personified – an off-kilter pop concern filled with new ideas. With Grasshopper, it shapes and morphs into the finest moment on By the Book, hitting in all the right places and unravelling life’s intricacies with simplicity.
Then there’s Geelong. Seemingly a home away from home for many Melbourne-based artists, Partner Look pay the relevant homage to the city during the album’s penultimate track. A panoramic jangle delight that echoes trans-Tasman cousins, The Bats.
Which folds into By the Book’s finale, The Endless Plain. Like a warm country breeze filled with nostalgia (“When the dust kissed by the rain / that smell will take away just about any pain”), it’s the kind of line Robert Forster would be proud of.
Fellow Melbournians, the aforementioned Snowy Band, have dominated the last two years with two stunning representations of breezy jangle-pop and while Partner Look are very much in this world, there’s something a little off-the-beaten-track about them. Not too dissimilar to now label mates Smoke Bellow, it’s a lovely progression for a genre that has become widespread over the last decade and (at times) has seen a swathe of sound-a-likes toxifying this particular landscape.
There’s no such danger here, though. Partner Look have delivered a slow burn delight, and while the Aussies are currently enjoying their summer, By the Book will be waiting in the wings for the months ahead.
By the Book is out now via Trouble In Mind. Purchase from Bandcamp.