Sarah Su marks their arrival with masterful debut album ‘the soil in which my roots now grow’

With thoughtful lyricism, pristine production and flair for wordplay, Sarah Su’s debut album this soil in which my roots now grow is the origin story of one of Australia’s most promising acts. 

Sarah Su has released their debut album the soil in which my roots now grow. A wholly independent and genre-bending expedition through adolescence, the 12-track project spans the reaches of intricate vocal arrangements, textural percussion, and lyrical poetry, with Su’s indie-flecked vocals taking centre stage.

After an acknowledgment of country on the album opener, roots opens with lead track how to forget, which recounts the Melbourne musician’s early experiences with romance en route to a fuller understanding of their queer identity. 

Sarah Su

Atop bouncy percussion and ambient backing vocals, Su sings of young love in all its doubt-ridden messiness. “It’s not your fault that all I ever learned from you, was how to control the ones who love me,” Su croons on the ascendent chorus. 

Elsewhere, Su makes references to pastimes of their youth, and samples an excerpt from the video game Barbie Gymnastics. This scene-setting quality continues on golden hour, a guitar-driven lullaby that forefronts Su’s angelic vocals with the subtle tinkle of piano keys. 

Muffled background sound effects later subsume the track in blissful nostalgia, as if golden hour was pulled from the remnants of Su’s own memory. A reflection on life’s sunnier moments, golden hour likens the afternoon to a period in one’s life worth savouring, with mumbled background word samples creating a sound so ambient you can almost step inside it.

With the sultry R&B cut skin, Su relinquishes to a lusty affair, pairing intimate lyrics with a slinky trap beat and sporadic inhaling asides. 

In between vocals reminiscent of Billie Eilish, Su speeds up the cadence with a spoken word sequence and thunderous bass sections. “Focussing all of my attention on you,” sings in vocals so delicate they veer toward a hushed whisper, “listening to my sick volitions.” The yearn for love later reappears on hair jewellery, a more classic pop cut that requests Su’s partner to “stay even when the sun’s come out.” 

Sarah Su

Su’s unparalleled flair for vivid, narrative songwriting is best showcased on the punchy glitch-pop track knives chau, which pairs the album’s most experimental production with ruminations of self-identity and appearance.

Complete with spacey backing synths, rap cadences and welcome dose of clever wordplay, knives chau quickens the pace of roots to exhilarating effect, with more sombre — yet no less intoxicating —  tones arriving with earl grey. 

Firing off on a range of topics from fast fashion to minimum wage, earl grey musters all the spoken word poeticism of Little Simz and Noname, as Su muses on the world’s problems over a cup of tea in a coffee shop. Dense in lyrics but sparing in production, earl grey marks an album standout for Su, who waxes philosophical with a level of deftness you might hear on a Kendrick Lamar record. 

Sarah Su

the soil in which my roots now grow marks Sarah Su’s debut album, having released their first EP deep in 2020. The project was three years in the making, and was celebrated with an album launch event at Brunswick Artists Bar last month. Listen to Sarah Su’s new album the soil in which my roots now grow below.