Every country around the world has its music scene. Some are more iconic than others, the 90s “Grunge” scene in Seattle, New York City’s angular indie rock heyday of the 00’s and some are lesser known. Australia has been one place that has remained a hotbed of pop music for decades now. This sunny guitar based, wistful, indie lo-fi rock music has been a defining feature of that county’s music scenes for decades. Now with their sophomore record, Sideways To New Italy out today via Sub Pop/Ivy League Records, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are set to expose a whole new generation of music fans to the type of pop songs Australians have been soaking up forever. The band, started by their three guitarist/singers, Fran Keaney, Tom Russo & Joe White, offer up a very specific sound on their new album, buoyantly bumping rhythms that hold the foundation intact to allow the three guitars to mingle, rollick and stab their way through some effortlessly summer-y arrangements. For how much of an easy breezy listen of an album Sideways To New Italy is, it still manages to impress, surprise and showcase a very talented group of musicians.
Album opener “The Second Of The First” throws you right into the proceedings. The bubbly bass playing courtesy of Joe Russo is a definite standout here. Along with Marcel Tussie on drums, the rhythm section keeps everything so locked into place that the three guitars can float in and out of the track, however they see fit, all while being balanced by the singers gorgeous three part harmonies. “Falling Thunder” feels like a perfect soundtrack to a summer day. When the band so sweetly sings, “Is It Any Wonder/Were On The Outside/Falling Like Thunder/From The Sky” you should be hooked by their exceptional hooks. The record is chock full of these earworms. On “She’s There” they come in the form of the opening’s goosebump inducing guitar lines and with “The Only One” it’s in the way Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever flips the script a bit with a jaunty and jagged drum pattern before it all resolves so sweetly in the song’s infectious chorus. Album standout “Cars In Space” showcases the band’s classic sound. The rhythm section pummelling forward, holding the momentum while the sugary but not saccharine vocal melodies glide around it all. There are long sections featured on the record where Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever allow their three guitars to take centre stage but it doesn’t at all come off as “jammy”. Keaney, Russo and White have such a deft hand at writing melodies that there is so much at play for your ears to gravitate to. Take “Not Tonight” for example. Before even the ten second mark, there has already been three huge hooks.
Whether it is because the band lives in one of the sunnier parts of the world, Sideways To New Italy seems tailor made for the summer season. It’s an album that you can leave on the background at a patio party or really delve into its intricacies with headphones on. There is a ton to discover and enjoy here and with every listen you will be able to hear something new. Bright, brilliant and clear, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s Sideways To New Italy takes you on the sweetest summertime journey, one that you’ll be able to enjoy all year long.
review by Adam Fink