Graham Reid | | 2 min read
There’s a gentle and typically thoughtful pop song Take It Slow at the midpoint of this excellent debut album.
In it Auckland singer-writer Amelia Murray (aka Fazerdaze) sings, “It seems so far already, seems so far to go, I don’t know if I’m ready . . . I’ll take it slow”.
It could be a song about reticent commitment in a relationship but anyone who has followed her steady career trajectory would say she has been taking things at exactly the right pace.
After her self-titled debut EP three years ago which sprung the bNet playlist songs Treading Lightly and the almost pastoral indie-pop Jennifer (the latter re-appearing here), she finished her degree in pop music at the University of Auckland, took to the road in Australia and Britain with a band, was accepted to the Red Bull Academy in Montreal, got management with an obviously insightful Australian company, signed to Flying Nun and more recently settled into the Auckland suburb of Morningside.
That is a lot to have accomplished in a few years but her self-confidence is everywhere on these 10 intelligent, economically short and focused songs which sometimes seem to speak of some of those experiences as well as of the happiness and uncertainties of any relationship.
Tellingly her song titles include Last to Sleep, Little Uneasy, Friends, In My Room and Bedroom Talks.
The immediate standout however is the infectious, joyous and chiming guitar pop of the sub-three minute Lucky Girl (“I know I’m a lucky girl”) which is a refreshing change from the maudlin introspection which afflicts so many young writers. Gratitude is a rare commodity these days, but Murray feels and announces it.
With an echoed vocal and a driving bass line Lucky Girl fairly sings out of the speakers and should pull anyone to their feet to celebrate her good fortune along with her.
Murray knows her way into the heart of a simple but effective pop structure: It is in the angry interpersonal love/hate Misread ("I hate the way you talk about yourself when you are feeling down/talk about me to your friends/hide the things you realy want to say") which comes on like classic girl group pop from the early Sixties with just enough guitar grit of the Jesus and Mary Chain (also girl group fans).
It's there again on Little Uneasy where she delivers a classically constructed pop song with a melodic line which rises to carry the listener and the taut guitars which drive it; again on Shoulders which is gentle song of love, acceptance and her own self-doubt (“I’m trying not to try so hard for you”) and directed towards a sleeping lover -- now that’s maturity -- which is supported a lovely organ line, a pulsing bass and guitar part and . . .
So much more.
As a debut this is a rare album of innocence and maturity, delicacy and thrash (the roof-raising Friends) all held together by a sure sense of The Song as being central to everything.
If there’s a criticism here it’s that sometimes in these excellent songs Murray’s voice is too far back in the mix so that the character of it and her personality doesn’t come through enough (check In My Room by way of example).
But then again, the closer Bedroom Talks –which opens and closes with the sound of crickets establishing an immediate and unashamedly suburban intimacy -- is the better for her sounding like she is just a bit distance down the hall.
Take a listen to the intelligence behind all this -- musical and lyrical in the heartfelt and rowdy Friends -- and be ready for her.
Morningside announces the arrival of a singer and songwriter who has shot to front of a very crowded field . . . and she sounds like she is not just ready but has "far to go".
Declaration: I met Amelia Murray some years ago when she was a student in one of my music history courses and she has been a guest speaker in a couple of my music industry studies papers about her career this far.
She also now lives in the same suburb as we do. None of that has, I believe, coloured this review.