Gems has been in the making for the best part of four years. Crafted alongside bandmates Liam Parsons and Stefan Blair of Good Morning, and Paul Ceraso, the record is a labour of love, living and triumph for the band.
Listening to Gems, it’s impossible to deny Dannika’s dexterity, her specific, distinctive style — a natural gravitation toward bright melody, a fondness for blushing, impressionistic prose on slower songs and beautifully direct, almost bratty rebukes on faster ones — but Gems isn’t so feeble as to rely on some kind of auteur myth. On the plainest level, this album is clearly the product of four people who are in tune on some kind of profound emotional level, whose contributions are strongest when working in tandem with each other.
More importantly, though, Gems feels written by the characters that appear in its stories. This album is dedicated to “our friends,” and how could it not be? These songs are inspired by the “grown arse fucking men” asking for too much advice, the girls dating down, the friends who have passed and the friends yet to come; the album’s most stunning love song, I Don’t Wanna Be With Anyone, is about Dannika wanting to be by herself, not in a sad, defeated sense, but in a way that is sharp and clarified.
That Gems is materialising so many years after Dannika’s first EP, For Peaches — four years, a lifetime when your friends are some of the most prolific musicians in Melbourne — feels right; like catching up with an old friend, time has revealed exciting new parts of Dannika. Gone is the endearing looseness of For Peaches, replaced instead by thick grooves that grip tightly.
The songs that comprise Gems have been such an essential part of our lives for so long that they feel tactile and specific, like objects unique to our lives: they’re not just songs, but mixes laboured over by Stefan and Liam and Paul, messages in the girls' group chat, demos played through Nicola’s car speaker and drowned out by the sound of the freeway, friends singing to each other at a house party, and videos shakily filmed in The Tote front bar and sent over Messenger to Emma. It’s important to stress that Gems doesn’t refer to precious jewels, but to Dannika’s favourite food, potato gems — things to be devoured, comforted and nourished by, best consumed at any time of day or night, and, of course, most enjoyed when shared. These songs are inalienable parts of our lives now; they’ve brought our friends together over the past few years and, now, maybe they will for you and yours too.
Release: 29 January, 2021, Osborne Again/Spunk Records
Words: Spunk Records