If there’s one thing we can deduce from Tiny Little Houses’ back catalogue, it’s that Caleb Karvountzis has a hard time having a good time. On the band’s latest EP, Snow Globe, the Melbourne misery merchants have struck sad gold, not least on the lilting sorrow of ‘Medicate Me’.
With Australia producing such sterling sounds of late, particularly from the idiosyncratic folk/rock of The Goon Sax, there was always a feverish anticipation to Tiny Little Houses’ latest opus. Lead single ‘Song Despite Apathy’ was a punchy state of the disunion address, but even that song contained the key lyric of “I’m only a miserable man.”
“You’re upset and I’m wrong, and I tried my best but I can’t move on,” sighs Karvountzis, his hand slipping in and out as he tries to wrestle with his emotions. “I tried living without you, baby, but you’re my vice,” he whines later, in that Corgan-cribbed croon that’s drenched in reverb and regret. Backed by a moody jangle and a haunting slab of scuzz that sounds like Pavement at their most perfect, the song continues building (or should that be descending) as the floppy-fringed frontman tries to process such sorrow.
“I don’t wanna live, if you don’t wanna stay,” he yelps as the song’s bittersweet, but urgent, arpeggios begin circling the drain. Although the track suffers slightly with its outro coda of “you’re my heroin(e)”, it has enough originality and forthright emotion to keep the balance right. In an age where lo-fi strums are usually canvassed with insular, aloof lyrics, Karvountzis isn’t afraid to wear his heart on his denim sleeve; no emotions are left unturned as he lets his tear-stained lecture notes linger throughout. Even if it isn’t personal, it has the universality to appeal to everyone who spends most nights crying into their copy of Kill Uncle.
As it ends with a swirling guitar motif and the band’s now-trademark acoustic-funnelled-through-a-distortion-pedal aesthetic, the lingering feeling is that Karvountzis needs some help. But while he processes his emotions, we’re getting six tracks of wrought, wry joy. So it’s six of one…