by Phil Scarisbrick
Melbourne native, Olivia Bartley AKA Olympia, is the latest in an ever-increasing swathe of Australasian female artists who’ve adorned our turntables over the last few years. After the success of her debut album, Self Talk, she has returned with a sophomore record full of vibrant and canny art pop that is refreshing in its simplicity. Citing the intertwining of grief and desire as the thread that courses through the album, it would be easy to assume that it is an exercise in catharsis given the references she makes to a relationship being ended in tragedy. It feels much more positive in its outlook though, rarely dwelling on bad vibes or heavy statements.
Opener, Star City, bounces into life with fuzzy, stomping guitars and bombastic drums underpinning Bartley’s doubled up vocals. The chorus is instantly infectious, and will surely be a live favourite when she hits the road. Easy Pleasure is an uneasy blend plectrum-strummed bass and off-kilter, bright guitar that culminates in a sultry chorus as Bartley exclaims, “You’re gonna blame the one you love”. Nervous Riders builds over lightly rolled drums and bass slides to deliver a powerfully-affecting lament that brims with emotionally impactful melodies.
Single, Hounds, is a forthright damning of anyone and anything that practices fakery. Its pounding drums and huge guitar sound jostle for position beneath a soaring vocal that is as steadfast as it is captivating. First You Leave’s melancholy gives the record some mournful introspection that allows the positivity that courses through the majority of it to be anchored by some sense of rationale, given the subjects she is tackling. Flamingo is a skitty, feverish jam that ties everything together and ultimately, seals the two ideals of grief and desire that give this album its purpose.
It is hard not to enjoy this record. It is compelling not just because the melodies are so great, but also because they’re tied together in such a meaningful way. It would be just as easy to enjoy this album as a piece of throwaway pop as it would be to explore the deep subjects she tackles. A thoroughly recommended sophomore from an exciting artist.
Secret Meeting score: 77