Album Review: Rob Snarski – Sparrow and Swan

Rob, the camera is this way!
Photo by Brandon Jarrett.

Languidly moving at a leisurely place, akin to devouring a collection of short stories, Rob Snarski has weaved a collection of songs that have a sense of yearning, longing and reflection – capturing moments like images on an old Kodachrome slide film.

YMR Album Rating: **** (4/5)

These nine songs move in place and time at a dreamy, lumbering pace. From Melbourne, Brisbane, Belfast, Helsinki, New Delhi and a coastal town in Italy – each song devouring you with a sense of story. A beautiful album that is produced with such emotional precision by Shane O’Mara, and the founder of the band The Blackeyed Susans, Rob Snarksi.

Where love, reflection, nature, and times of yore are interlaced like a multicoloured dream.

The album gently begins with the title track, where you are seemingly transported from looking down from the sky to the earth where “creeks and rivers look like veins“. There is something about this album that is singular – oblivious to the movement and the rushing of the world – to something that is so personal and attached to nature where “the clouds drift without a sound“.

‘Robert Mitchum at Mitcham Station’ is a vignette that transports you to the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, reflecting on changing times and commuters on trains. Where Snarksi ponders “if only they could change one little vowel” where Mitcham Station could be renamed Mitchum after the Hollywood actor. Meshing with images of jacarandas, ladies with bouffants and tattoos on arms – moving back and forth in time, where the focus is on a young couple in love.

In ‘All God’s Creatures’ you can feel those long summer days as “the heat shakes the air as it rises from the ground” – a song that encapsulates a feeling of beauty, claustrophobia and loneliness that is driven by O’Mara’s guitar, and flashes of dazzling piano and organ played by Kiernan Box. The heat of the day subsided by the relief of “thunder’s cracking overhead/affirmation of a change“.

Who says that a song about footy, can’t be poetic? Snarksi paints a beautiful tribute to a man that took young Snarski “under his wing” and taught him to “kick, to handball and mark” – where learning about the game can transcend into something deeper – a reflection of moments that can never return and a tribute to people that embellish our lives with such importance. A beautiful song, where the feeling of emotionality is further heighten by the presence of Rebecca Barnard’s backing vocals.

The queue to the toilet was annoying that day. Rob Snarski to the left and Shane O’Mara at the front of the queue.
Photo by Hannah Phemister.

One of the most interesting tracks on the album is ‘Equine Dreaming’ – the meeting of two characters at a Pascoe Vale TAB. A suburban love story, where the convergence of two people ensures the awakening of the soul, where Snarski sings with smooth and expressive vocals “dreams fade away and hope runs dry/until today, until tonight” – with Kelly Day and Jane Hendry providing vocal harmonies reminiscent of Kate & Anna McGarrigle. A beautiful song, showing that with love comes change and hope. Next time you visit the TAB, you might get more than a win on Race 3 at the Moe Races!

Teenage heartache and unrequited love is sensitively portrayed in “That Whole Summer Long” – where the focus of the one you love has their heart for someone else. Even with the passing of years the “sense of loss, well, it’s lingering on“, exemplifying the indelible imprint of love and hurt.

From personal motifs to a Brisbane taxi driver, with a track aptly called ‘Conversation with a Brisbane Cab Driver’ – Snarski showing that everyone has a story, where everyone’s life means something to somebody. The rejoicing of life and living, with the outro Snarksi repeating “I’m still breathing” with a song that captures an Indian musical flavour courtesy of O’Mara.

The album ends with ‘Have You Ever Been to Helsinki?’ – from Australian summer to a perceived snowy winter in Helsinki – the strength of the album comes from beauty of the compositions, which are bathed with such luminosity and a yearning that is almost palpable. When Snarksi sings “I’ve waited for a lifetime for our embrace“, you know he means it.

Sparrow & Swan is an album that needs to be absorbed, maybe during a late night, with the lights low and indulging with a glass of red. An album that will gently unfold and open you to up to beautiful vignettes of love, reflection and nature – all weaved together in a dream like fashion. This is a glorious piece of work.





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