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Sarah Blasko Delivers Light Pop With Its Brain Engaged

1 October 2015 | 12:30 pm | Ross Clelland

And that voice still ripples through you.

If you follow an artist for long enough, you may notice that some’s development is entirely lineal – building on what has gone before, sometimes to the point – usually if the base is not entirely solid in the first place – the whole balsa tower can teeter and fall over. The more interesting, and more durable, often can take tangents, ebb and flow like the tide, and find different ways.

Sarah Blasko is definitely an artist, and worthy of that term. She has made records where the questions she’s asked herself have been existential, philosophical. But, following a time where she nearly eschewed words altogether to score a theatrical dance piece, she offers two samples of her upcoming album with the touch seeming that bit lighter – even if she’s examining the simple complications and complicated simplicity of the workings of her own heart. Both Only One and I’d Be Lost (Dew Process) might be that bit lighter, ‘pop’ even – but never without its brain engaged. And that voice still ripples through you.

Or you can even can at a work of your own from different angles. Autre Ne Veut intrigues. Falling into an almost alternative-to-the-alternative soul territory – certainly more Frank Ocean than Sam Smith. To confuse the issue more – or maybe just to make you think – the video version of Panic Room (Create/Control) is the more minimal. It be Arthur acapella, looking for approval for his talent from an X-Factor/Flashdance panel of his real-life manager, his real-life sister, and a genuine Pitchfork critic – Freudians may deal with this as they choose. While back on Soundcloud his voice is cradled with the warm electronica more usual to his music. In whichever form, the voice is quite extraordinary.

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Oh, you want someone to really mess with your ears and your head? Following his one-upping of Ryan Adams singing Taylor Swift by adding some Velvet Underground stylings to Tay-Tay’s Blank Space, and then removing it from the interwebs because ‘the ghost of Lou Reed’ told him to (sure he did…following so far?), then straight into messing with his own identity with The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment, Father John Misty offers The Memo (Bella Union). It’s an inter-office note with a fairly jaundiced view of popular culture and the human condition, even managing to rhyme ‘amputee’ with ‘chimpanzee’. Cynical? Yup. Observant? Sure. But you remain just that little bit off-balance as to wondering if he’s letting you in on the whole joke or not.

Let us go to something a lot less deliberately obfuscating. Sam Shinazzi speaks honestly – if with a little human awkwardness – of attraction. Ballerina (Laughing Outlaw) is that girl across the room as you try to be all cool and not make it completely obvious you’re besotted with her. In this cunning plan, you fail. It’s quite endearing, even as you dig him in the ribs for being such a dag, as blokes do. Adding to the charm of the narrative, the stop-motion clip with perhaps unwitting input from the Mattel Corporation and George Lucas, made on a budget that likely wouldn’t cover either of those corporate giants’ paperclip stipend for a couple of hours.

Occasionally, some perhaps unexpected outside input can be the making of a band. Little May’s quality has been pretty much unquestioned. Slightly folkie, and with those quite stunning harmonies, you knew they were good but it just needed, umm, something. You, and maybe even they, not even knowing what that might be. It could just be a trip to upstate New York and having The National’s Aaron Dessner as producer coming at their music from a different angle. Thus, Seven Hours (Dew Process) opens with a meshing and seeping of guitars over a textured bed, which does have a touch of Dessner’s day-job combo about it. There’s that clenched restraint which kicks up someway through - still tensed, but those aforementioned harmonies take it somewhere else. Currently off touring the world – or parts thereof – and likely to come back a far greater attraction.

There’s always that craving for the familiar. Are Public Access TV the new Strokes? Odd question, not the least as we seemingly aren’t even done with the old one yet. John Eatherly yells like he means it, the band has a host of guitars making various rackets out the back in a kinda punky way as Patti Peru (Polydor) unfurls in good time. It does all it says on the wrapper, but probably won’t have boy Casablancas or the Junior Hammond too worried.

Ivey decide that being literal might be a good idea. Here they are: In a garage. You with me? Indie rock band. In a garage! Genius. Smell Of Smoke (Footstomp) has a neat shaky nervous energy to it, again as attraction is puzzled over in that second guessing way. Millie’s distinctive echoey and halting vocals suit the story being told, and they seem to know when to stop thinking and let things happen. And occasionally remember to have something resembling a chorus. Unpretentious, and rather pretty good.

Another kind of indie has those vocals of the coming-up-from-down-a-well variety. And guitars that are variously full of ‘60s surfy reverb, or Stonesy buzz and swagger. These elements come in various proportion in what Rolling Blackouts provide. And in such a way that you can’t quite place just where or when Wide Eyes (Ivy League) comes from. It’s been described as ‘hard pop’ or soft punk’ elsewhere, but they’re pigeonholes that don’t really quite pin down what they’re about. Here’s an idea: look and listen to this. Simples.