Album Review: Sarah Mary Chadwick – 9 Classic Tracks

What defines a classic? Is it the fact that a whole bunch of wankers that once got to watch Mick Jagger jerk off backstage bequeath it that honour? Or is it personal? The fact that you get to decide what becomes a favourite of yours, and is therefore classic in your catalogue, and by your definition? Or is it classic if the songwriter just chucks that word in the title? I dunno, I’m one of the aforementioned wankers that gotta see Mick Jagger jerk off. Cha-ching! It was awesome, and now I get to lord my opinion over all y’all and tell you that you’re wrong about everything that you care dearly about. And I’ll start my slow domination of your opinions with this simple fact: the new Sarah Mary Chadwick record is magnificent.

See, we all get a little depressed sometimes. Maybe it’s a Monday, maybe you just watched Old Yeller. But Chadwick takes the blues to a new level, with a deeply heartfelt, poetic take on heartbreak and self-doubt that mimics the act itself perfectly. ‘9 Classic Tracks’ prolongs that feeling of desperation, captures it like a weak Pokemon seduced by the power of the Masterball, and hammers it all down to tape with plain but powerful emotion. The first words out of Chadwick’s mouth are “Too happy for the sad ones, too long-faced for the glad ones”, and the themes of hopelessness just extend from there.

You can’t simply jump into this record, hoping for the best, because the depth will drown you. Don’t be fooled by Geoffrey O’Connor’s masterfully production that recalls the death of a disco – this record draws you in with its sheer magnitude, or rather its quiet exuberance. It unfolds like the most complex chatterbox ever created in Year 2. But there’s no meticulousness, or calculating genius behind the control panel. Rather, the thing we end up bowing to is Chadwick’s ability to speak the kinds of things we all feel. No one does regret like Sarah Mary Chadwick, and no one delivers it with the kind of biting clarity that she is capable of. Take “Am I Worth It”, “Aquarius Gemini” or “Same Old Fires” – these are songs purpose-built to bury into the emotions of even the most hardened individual. Even Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket would have trouble not finding himself in the words of these songs.

The clear reasoning for this ability to harrow all with ears is Chadwick’s longing poetry and delivery. Chadwick’s voice and lyrics are serene, a wash of angelic melancholy delivered in the most gorgeous Kiwi accent this side of Karl Urban. The soft inflections do more than remind us that Chadwick comes from a foreign land that gave us some solid sheepskin jackets and The Clean. It provides a serene alien voice that fits well into the context of her work – many New Zealand songwriters, at least the one’s I’ve heard, seem afraid of utilising their accents. Just like her lyrics, Chadwick is naked with her voice, baring all in both a cathartic and damaging manner.

Although ‘9 Classic Tracks’ might suffer occasionally from fodder, and, at least upon immediate release, it couldn’t be classified as ‘CLASSIC’. But you can’t help but remark and marvel at the honesty of Sarah Mary Chadwick’s music, and its ability to move. It’s serene. It’s beautiful. It’s compelling. It simply exists as a document, and happens to be a document that feels both universal and intimate. Chadwick is speaking to both you, alone, and everyone in this entire universe, even those fuckwits in Parliament. Because sometimes, even Joe Hockey gets a little down. And when that time comes, he’ll be reaching for the new Sarah Mary Chadwick record, along with every other individual who needs someone to explain the shit that they themselves aren’t capable of understanding.

‘9 Classic Tracks’ is available on Rice Is Nice and Siltbreeze Records. Sarah Mary Chadwick will play a launch at Golden Age Bar and Cinema in Slurry Hillz on May 28th, show’s free, so I expect to see ya there.

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