The Townhouses is the solo project of Melbourne’s Leigh Hannah. He has been churning out a pretty steady stream of EPs from a small shed in the middle of nowhere for about a year now, but I believe this is his first effort to be picked up by a label. It’s a rather brief and sparse effort, but a very charming one. The opening track (“Romance at the Video Game Library”) is built upon an endearingly sad and plonky synthesizer riff bolstered by an undulating haze of feedback. It’s a very naïve, tender, and earnest piece that manages to perfectly capture the exquisite feel of a clumsy first crush.
The glistening feedback then segues nicely into the second song (“The Love Who Disguised Herself”), which treads very similar territory, but with overlapping xylophones thrown into the mix. It’s pleasant, but feels much more incidental than its excellent predecessor- like it should perhaps be playing during a whimsically poignant scene in Six Feet Under. The very brief “How to Build a Snow Fort” follows, however, with some nicely understated quavering guitar ambiance that recaptures some lost momentum.
“Rose’s Voyage” follows in similar fashion, though it is a bit more melancholy and expansive. Aside from “Romance,” it is the clear highlight here, favorably recalling artists like Stars of the Lid and Windy & Carl. Unfortunately, the final song is a bit of a disappointment, as the unfortunate xylophones make their conspicuous return and turn the piece into something that sounds like an annoyingly repetitive musical toy for babies.
“The Lost Kagu” shows that Leigh can do a couple of things very well: weave shimmering webs of subtle guitar noise and compose skeletal, emotionally resonant chord progressions. When he sticks to those two things, his work in excellent. However, when he becomes at all forceful with his melodies or textures, the fragile spell is broken and things err on the side of cloyingly precious. I’m curious to see which direction Hannah ultimately goes in, as at this early point in his career it seems equally likely that he could become a great drone artist or a soundtrack composer for quirky short films. The middle ground between the two is not a good place to stick around. 6/10 -- Anthony D'Amico (28 April, 2010)