The past two years have had Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever take themselves all over the place. They’ve seen Coachella, they’ve seen Primavera, they’ve returned to the origins in Melbourne in exhausting intervals. A well-received debut that ended up on many-a-year-end-list presents this as an inevitability.
What happens when an album cycle ends and you’re no longer obliged to slingshot yourself cross continentally? ‘Sideways To New Italy’ retrospectively places the band back in those spaces, dreaming of a way to experience them through a utopian lens.
‘New Italy’ itself is a town of less than 200 people, formerly populated by Venetian settlers from the 19th Century, looking to create a home away from home in Australia. Each song on the album seeks to do the same, drawing meaning from many places based around their travels.
Three singer-songwriter-guitarists in a five-piece has the potential to enter muddy territory, but akin to the band’s debut, never really does. Guitars jangle but are never discordant. Trebled-heavy tones glide over each other’s riffs in a way that is second nature to the band at this point.
It is, cruelly given the present world circumstances, solid road-trip music. ‘Falling Thunder’ has the echoing melodies, the sense of pacey movement embodied in every musical decision. ‘The Only One’ takes that feeling and melds it with the light-headedness of romance. Sometimes, but not often, ‘Sideways To New Italy’ takes a bit of commitment to see past the melodies that come across as overly cinematic.
Standout ‘Cameo’ keeps things closer to home geographically, pieced together in Darwin, north Australia - though by Australia’s standards, still considerable grounds for a road-trip. It’s a love song, a call out, and time is dripping away.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have produced an album that dangles a carrot of the possibilities of exploration at the time of the impossible, but they are absolutely better off for doing so.
Words: Shannon McDonagh
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