It’s no overstatement that strong female figures have had a colossal impact on music over the years. From the likes of Nina Simone, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, Madonna – the list is longer than The Man From Snowy River. Their philanthropic pioneering in what has commonly been regarded as a male-dominated domain has shaped a stage of compassion, gumption, and grace that men can only dream of encapsulating. Enter Olympia. A fresh-faced female counterpart who is reaffirming the power of female intuition and wonder, and her new album Self Talk is an audio dictionary for the inquisitive mind or hopeless wanderer.
Olympia is an absolute queen on Self Talk, exuding wisdom and sonic prowess far beyond her years with the ease and grace of some kind of musical oracle.
Deriving her pseudonym from Manet’s prolific 19th-century portrait of a reclining nude, Olympia is similarly sprawling her reflective sonic pop to an audience hungry for a tune with backbone. She is a virtual present-day Blondie equivalent, with the buoyant vocal appeal of HAIM and The Preatures corresponding with a languid array of melodies that are Beach House-worthy.
The former Melbournian native Olivia Bartley (Olympia) spawned from an artistic background with a degree in design, and a few noble stints in Melbourne, Darwin, Indonesia and Cambodia where she set up artist studios with the objective of working with disadvantaged women. This fired an ongoing artistic process that found its way back to shaking the stages of Melbourne’s prospering music scene. From there, after a standard solo gig at the 303 Bar in Northcote she was approached by Simon Braxton from kiwi rock band Fur Patrol who gave her the creative praise needed to fuel those Olympic fires the artist has gone on to produce.
She collaborated in recording with Burke Reid (Courtney Barnett, Jack Ladder, the Drones) after four teasing single releases over the past year, the long anticipated Self Talk album has been unleashed, and as to be expected, is a bold collection of elegantly executed pop ballads.
Since releasing her debut self-titled EP in 2013, Self Talk marks the first full-length effort from Olympia. Unlike her previous offering, it features a more synthetic pop vibe that carries the artist’s ethereal vocals to a spunkier stratosphere. The tracks on the album come across as unbalanced, wavering in and out of glittery pop synths (Smoke Signals, Tourists, Self Talk) and juxtaposing elegant expansive melodies (Honey, Fishing Knots/Blood Vessels, Different Cities, Biscuits) however it also pays tribute to the musical range Olympia paddles with.
The essence of the album is tranquil and steady, punctuated with driving guitar hooks, and a dreamlike, pensive approach to delivery. Honey is an all-appropriate title for the seductive opening track about “the influence we have on each other”; executed with raw smooth vocals that drizzles and oozes like the sugary condiment in question. The slow-tempo drumbeat that also features is steady and driving that will have your head bobbing in unison like a dashboard dog.
Blue Light Disco is another must-listen with a weighty meaning of measure: “Written about a small boatload of asylum seekers who mistook the lights of a small mid-north NSW town for a large city, and beached their ailing tug boat there. The song is about the unreachable nature of desire, about wanting something so bad you end up on the other side of it.” The husky ethereal layering of Olympia’s pipes amidst a faint acoustic backdrop provides a haunting, ghostly vibe that beautifully cushions the foggy imagery of a boat lost at sea.
As mentioned, the record is one that encourages reflection and curiosity. Olympia has reinstated its meaning continuously: “The title Self Talk is about observing the stories we tell ourselves… It’s also a nod to the religion of self help.” We can safely say that this album is a far superior means of self-healing than looking to your self-help aisle at your local bookstore. So don’t waste your pennies kids… not to mention your dignity.
Just by the incredibly contemplative, philosophic ideology behind the album, you can see that this chic has something cumbersome to say, and it’s as courageous as the space-do bleach blond bangs that Olympia’s artistic head fashions. Like the greats before her, Olympia has destined herself to be another female artist to be reckoned with.
Olympia’s national tour is set to launch on 26 May in Sydney, continuing on through Brisbane, Maroochydore, Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Fremantle until 25 June.
May 26 – Newtown Social Club – Newtown, NSW
Jun 03 – Black Bear Lodge – Fortitude Valley, QLD
Jun 04 – Sol Bar- Maroochydore, QLD
Jun 11 – Producers Bar- Adelaide, SA
Jun 18th – Northcote Social Club- Melbourne, VIC
Jun 24th – Amplifier- Perth, WA
Jun 25th – The Odd Fellow- Freemantle, WA