Album of the Week: Angie McMahon’s Salt (2019 LP) is the sound of an artist demanding to be listened to and heard

When I first saw Angie McMahon about this time in 2017, you sensed there was something special about this unassuming artist standing behind her guitar and microphone. In support of The Jezabels at Sydney’s Lansdowne Hotel, Angie was fresh off the back of being crowned that year’s winner of the Josh Pyke Partnership for up and coming songwriters. You could tell she was nervous but confident in her own ability. I remember her self-deprecating humour and willingness to talk to the crowd. She finished with a song she mentioned that she thought would be her next single. Two months later, “Slow Mover” was released, and so began her rise to the pinnacle of Australian contemporary music.

Over the past twenty-four months, Angie McMahon has played increasingly larger stages, toured multiple times internationally, and played massive festivals both domestically and overseas; all while quietly putting together her debut album, Salt. Having followed her progress since she won me over at The Lansdowne, I can safely say that this album is my most anticipated release for the year. Her previously released singles were all instant in their impact, forcefulness and genuine nature. These singles all make an appearance on Salt, and yet there are still so many gems on this album that, without sounding clichéd at all, you genuinely can’t wait to see how far she’ll go.

It was by chance I stumbled across Angie McMahon. But in reality, based on the quality of Salt, it was only going to be a matter of time before I did. With the vast majority of the album comprising mostly of just her distraught and soaring vocals, as well as her guitar, Angie can take full credit for being able to simultaneously make the listener feel great, miserable, incredibly sad and overwhelming hopeful throughout the album’s run.

Album opener “Play The Game” is simple in its delivery, with only the most basic of accompaniment from the drums. It is the type of song that will fit perfectly as set opener or as a closer. An early highlight and personal favourite is “Soon”. Speaking about the hope of finding true love one day, Angie has doubts about whether she’ll make it through the heartbreak that exists in any stage of a relationship. Drawing inspiration from the forever love her parents still have, it is this hope that sets the tone for what Salt delivers in its eleven-track run.

Earliest singles “Keeping Time”, “Missing Time” and the near perfect “Slow Mover” showcase her more indie rock side, as she moves from an overtly melancholic sound, to a covertly melancholic sound. The tempo may have changed, but the basis and meaning behind the tracks remain the same. She writes from the heart and does it overwhelmingly well.

Having seen it performed a handful of times in the past(a) eighteen months, the gluten intolerant, dog-loving highlight in “Pasta” is a mid-track flight above the sadness. It showcases her wit, and is matched with an equally fantastic video. “Pasta” is a timely reminder that you’re never going to be able please everyone, and although you may feel at a loss in trying to do so, if you keep persisting and trying to please yourself, maybe one day you’ll find that inner peace.

There is a jazz-blues feel to “Standout” as she speaks about not wanting to settle for just anyone, but knows she wanted someone specific. Ultimately, it feels it may have been unrequited; something everyone listening to the album will be able to relate to.

The straining and anger filled “And I Am A Woman” is a masterpiece in waiting, as she strains and delivers an overwhelmingly devastating chorus. It’s this pain that draws the best out of McMahon. Album closer “If You Call” is delivered with a whistle of hope and clarity, a noise for the lost and a sound for the prospective future.

Angie McMahon is a tour-de-force, an artist demanding to be listened to and heard. She is a musician second, and a human first. She’s put her lived experiences into these tracks. There’s a special sentiment to be gained there. Salt is an album that in ten years time will be looked back on as being pivotal in the shaping of so many artists. I have no doubt there.

FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Salt is out now. Angie McMahon tours nationally on the following dates:

Wednesday 2 October – Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne VIC
Thursday 3 October – Canberra Theatre – The Playhouse, Canberra ACT
Friday 4 October – City Recital Hall, Sydney NSW
Saturday 5 October – Yours & Owls, Wollongong NSW
Thursday 10 October – Miami Marketta – Studio 56, Gold Coast QLD
Friday 11 October – Solbar – Maroochydoore, QLD
Saturday 12 October – The Tivoli, Brisbane QLD
Wednesday 16 October – The Gov, Adelaide SA
Friday 18 October – Astor Theatre, Perth WA
Saturday 19 October – The Waratah Hotel, Hobart TAS

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