Album Review: Emma Russack – Winter Blues

3 July 2019 | 9:05 am | Matt MacMaster

"[Russack] hasn’t fussed with the formula."

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Emma Russack is asking a lot of questions on Winter Blues. Her fifth album spends a lot of time investigating core motivations and drives without getting answers. That’s the point – Russack is too savvy to think the answer to What Is Love (“Is it borrowing your T-shirt/In summer when you’re looking so good it hurts?”) is more interesting than the question. By framing these philosophical inquiries using her trademark slow-mo, blue-tinted chamber-pop, Russack takes the sting out of the often painful process of self-interrogation.

The Melbourne-based performer hasn’t fussed with the formula. Still sitting on the fence between drama and whimsy, this release feels more grounded than, say, 2017's Permanent Vacation, an ecstatic record by comparison.

Be Real, an acerbic riot grrrl-lite riff, is as aggressive as Russack gets. She doesn’t need to apply force to her salient ideas. Wanting an identity is something everyone relates to. Specifying past vulnerabilities is effective enough without adding volume or texture for the sake of it. Winter Blues, the centrepiece and title track of the album, is a brooding resignation, a moment in which Russack stylishly indulges her mopey seasonal despondency, blaming the shitty weather, more successful peers and other things for her state. 

This record is another win for an idiosyncratic artist exploring her angst without histrionics. Its minimalist approach is striking, creating a beautiful fragility which underlines Russack’s openness and trust.