There’s something incredibly heart-wrenching about a person sitting in front of an organ baring their soul through music, and this is exactly the image conjured up by Melbourne’s Sarah Mary Chadwick: a lone woman, sitting at a Hammond in a dark room, trying to excavate something deep and not entirely meant for us. It’s a brutally beautiful image, reserved for Gothic theatre or film noir, not for pop music. But screw it, this is exactly what Sarah Mary Chadwick does on her new album 9 Classic Tracks and man, does she do it well.
Stream the haunting second album from Melbourne’s Sarah Mary Chadwick before anyone else. It’s a dense, visceral and incredibly engrossing collection of tracks.
9 Classic Tracks actually contains 11 songs, not that it matters all that much. But I think it’s a testament to the woman herself. Chadwick seems like the kind of person who is so hellbent on the inherent desire to express herself through music that she’s not entirely aware that it is being consumed by others. On her amazing 2012 debut album Eating For Two she did a similar thing, but instead of a Hammond organ she was strumming a Fender Jaguar and the world seemed a little brighter, even if just a little.
9 Classic Tracks is Chadwick’s first release on legendary Sydney label Rice Is Nice, who are renowned for picking out loveable misfits (Donny Benet) and releasing some of the best music floating around today. For her sophomore record, Chadwick has enlisted Geoffrey O’Connor as producer, who no doubt has influenced the moodiness of the record. It’s all incredibly dense. The programmed drums are stark, simple but deep, with bass that compresses the chest and reverberated snare hits that make you blink. The organs are pure 80s noir, cinematic and brooding – straight out of a David Lynch film. And Chadwick’s voice is husky but delicate and so honest that you almost feel like a sadist listening to it, relishing in part of her psyche where you shouldn’t be.
Chadwick is New Zealand born and has played in bands for years, including the much loved Batrider with Julia MacFarlane from Twerps and Stephanie Crase from Summer Flake. Since the band split she has bled out a deluge of songs, with two LP’s and a collection of 16 B-Sides available on her Bandcamp. However, 9 Classic Tracks is by far her most accomplished and personal work to date. The whole thing is incredibly visceral. Her Kiwi accent is unmistakable throughout the tracks as she questions things like “Where do I fit in?” and “Am I Worth It?”. It is an album of great introspection, heartfelt and heartbroken but entirely relatable. For an album so deeply personal, it contains a rhetoric that is universal. On Am I Worth It? the title line scatters around unanswered, leaving the listener to take from it what they need.
There are patches of light within the darkness. The hymn-like Same Old Fires picks up the middle of album with Chadwick dusting off her raw husk and bellowing “I’m sick of feeling the same old burns/from wandering through the same old fires” with a force that would send Florence Welch running for cover. I’m Like an Apple With No Skin is hip-hop at half-speed with its hypnotic rhythm that is almost impossible not to get lost in. Chadwick’s poetic prose is reminiscent of early Patti Smith (they even look eerily similar) and stands alone throughout the entire album. She layers her vocals upon one another because the inclusion any other voices would feel intrusive in the psychological excavation that is 9 Classic Tracks.
On the album closer, Chadwick repeats “until the grave, i’m fighting” so vehemently it’s almost like a self-mantra. She creates a very unique brand of nightmare-pop but it is all incredibly relatable. There are hints of optimism that seep through the tracks and when it’s all over you cant help but question your own life, and your own troubles. 9 Classic Tracks demands to be listened to and wholly consumed to understand. You’re not going to be blasting it on your way to the beach but who cares; some of the greatest albums are best listened to alone. It’s an incredible listen, the kind of album that could get people out of some tough situations and as sadistic as it sounds, on 9 Classic Tracks, Chadwick’s pain is our pleasure.
If you’re loving what you hear be sure to see Sarah in the flesh on the following dates. Tickets here.
April 10 – Polyester Records Instore, Brunswick St, Fitzroy
May 28 – Golden Age Cinema, 80 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills
May 29 – Repressed Records Instrore, 413 King Street, Newtown
June 4 – The Gasometer, 484 Smith St, Collingwood.
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