Wow, Sodastream. I'm instantly transported to 1997 and the seven inch vinyl copy of 'Turnstyle' on Pickled Egg records that I used to play on repeat. Happy days. And for those who can't remember that far back, Sodastream were quite the big noise from across the pond (Australia) with Peel's fervant endorsement and a single of the week back in the day from Moby no less.
But time hasn't been kind to Sodastream and this is an album made by two people (Karl Smith and Pete Cohen) tired of the endless giging round the world, sleeping in the backs of vans etc. Never quite getting the attention and recognition their talent deserved. Lucky then that 'Reservations' is Sodastream's masterpiece. But gone are the singalongs and horn sections of previous releases, this album is a stripped down dark and deliberate sound that effortlessly touches the heart.
The album opens with 'Warm July' a slow, delicate and brooding track that creates a melancholy harmony, the double bass offsetting the viola and gentle guitar. And Karl Smith's lazy but assured vocal intoning "You're alone and you don't know why - no warm July". Track two, 'Anti' is (slightly) more uptempo. It starts all Simon and Garfunkel before the clever change in the vocal reels you in. Quite wonderful, and perhaps the standout track on a standout album. Think Belle and Sebastian before that Trevor Horn thing.
There's not a poor track here. 'Twin Lakes' is a considered dual-vocal two minute folk\pop duel between guitar and double bass and 'Anniversary' is a gorgeous and mournful piano-led song to a lost love "I've tried, I have tried, and I won't be holding on". And the title track 'Reservations' is a cracker. An uptempo treat of bubbling double bass and sweet swirling vocal. Hell, by the time the harmonica kicks in I can almost feel the sugar rush coming on...
So this is not a miserable album, albeit one tinged with sadness and regret, but an honest and personal story of breakups and despair - its like the soundtrack to Spring emerging from Winter; a compelling stab of hope.
And while we're on the subject of hope let's pay due respect to the mighty Fortuna Pop - one of the (few) truely independent heroes in the war against those fake-indie fronts for the industry. An inspiration indeed in dark times.