By Rob Dickens.
Whoa, something’s happening here!
I have been listening to Monday to Friday the new (and second) Sweet Jean album a lot (due for release 13 May 2016 on ABC Music/Universal) and it has taken me aback. Not because it’s disappointing (it certainly isn’t), not because I hadn’t high expectations (I did), not because it’s too close to the duo’s excellent previous release (it’s remarkably apart). In fact, it is unquestionably both bold and brilliant. Make no mistake.
Alice Keath and Sime Nugent are Sweet Jean and the 2013 debut release was the hugely impressive and highly acclaimed Dear Departure. Measured, restrained and dark, it was a captivating release.
How has Sweet Jean followed that up? Audaciously!
Adding some Brit. power pop, soaring choruses and jangling guitar to their distinctive calibrated harmonies and frank observations, results in a spell-binding collection. There are ten songs here, all co-written by Sime Nugent and Alice Keath. John Castle helps out on various instruments as well.
The opening track ‘Everything Changes’ is a master stroke with a wall of keyboards and reflections on fleeting utopia and the comfort of a loved one:
“It’s getting colder
I’m at the end of the high
I always love you more
When I’m a sorry sight
The stakes go up a notch with the exhilarating ‘Main Street’ with its metronome beat – here Keath has never sung better and with more feeling – it’s feisty, uplifting and irresistible “I’m ready for a fight, I’m ready for a rumble tonight”.
‘Slow’ has a British new wave sensibility with a slightly demented, yet hypnotic guitar lick that leads into a seductive tale. ‘NYD’ is another triumph – lyrically and musically, with another slightly off-kilter guitar riff – it is strident yet vulnerable, hopeful yet watchful – “there’s a line and I’ve got mine”. A wall of instruments and harmonies in the outro are majestic.
Nugent and Keath sing arm and arm in ‘I See Stars’, with jangly keyboards and a jaunty rhythm complementing a highly intimate and optimistic love song. ‘Still Here’ revisits a break-up, a heartfelt and painful reflection.
‘Rosetta’ is distorted guitar pop with perfect doo wop harmonies “the feeling in the physics too”. Soundtrack maestro Gustavo Santoalalla would give ‘Cherries’ a nod, I suspect, with its sparse stringed introduction, and in the closer ‘All I Know’, Nugent leads with powerful, but subdued riffs.
Genre? Call this music whatever your like. This is A-1 song writing, the finest production, and engrossing chemistry between two class performers.
If you buy only one Australian album this year, Monday to Friday should be it. Adventurous and mesmerising.