In the South Western corner of Australia you will find a small coastal township called Gracetown. The beachy holiday spot has a nostalgic pull on Fremantle band San Cisco, and so it has become the title of their brand new record. The twelve-track album carries sentiments of Gracetown; of youth and reminiscence, but it is far more expansive than a location that they have since passed through and passed by. Their musical landscape has changed, as have members Jordi Davieson, Scarlett Stevens, Josh Biondillo and Nick Gardner, since their debut EP release in 2010. The music is sexier than before. There is delicacy, candour and a maturity to the record. Parts are cutsie and formulated, but San Cisco have a tendency to pull it off with a new found inventiveness. Overall, the music is catchy – there is no doubt about that.
Gracetown’s narrative is propelled by and bound to love. Memories entwined in ideas about love, an ambivalence within love, and love’s expectations are at the fore: a needing and a wanting, while still hankering to be carefree and young – these themes and quandaries are laced throughout the album.
The album does dig into the many mixed stages that lovers tend to go through, as the song titles indicate: the initial rush of ‘Magic’ is followed by ‘Jealousy’, and then later quells into a sense of wistfulness over missing each other on ‘Bitter Winter’. Then, unsurprisingly, comes the following decision to take it ‘Super Slow’. The universally studied psychology of people and their relationships and behaviours fills the album, linking one to the other and drawing the listener into their lyrical muse with ease. The relatable subject matter, word placement and phrasing blend well with the musical underlay. All of the varied facets combine in a complementary way. There are hints of disco and funk in ‘Just For A Minute’, splatterings of hip hop in ‘Jealousy’ and classic low-fi acoustic in ‘Skool’. A mixture of genres are peppered across the album, enclosed within San Cisco’s own indie-pop outer shell.
The band has created a clever collection of songs with their long-term producer and collaborator Steven Schram, and within the songs there is depth and detail. You can hear a quality in the sound and production, from the breathy weaving in and out of song in ‘Run’ to the clean bass in ‘Wash It All Away’. There are sophisticated flourishes, and upon careful listening, the flecks and finery ascend buoyantly. Below the songs surface, the intricacies of composition glide together and traverse across one another with a good degree of balance. This is a testament to the band’s toil, and their endeavour to experiment with their sound palate. Each of the songs can hold their own, and yet also fit together as one body of work.
Lyrically they have matured, yet they still retain a sound of youth and innocence as they write of their formative years. Scarlett’s voice is soft, sweet and breathy, and ties beautifully with Jordi’s vocal tones. A nice inclusion is Isabella Manfredi of The Preatures. She sings on ‘Jealously’ and is one of the many highlights on the album.
The record is a bit cheeky in lots of ways. There is panting, beats and sounds made only with the mouth. There are some cool bass lines and electronic additions that add another point of difference and character. ‘Stuck in emotional traffic’ and ‘Distraction was just a reaction to you’ comprise some great one-liners in amongst the backdrop.
You do have to guess some of the lyrical content as the band choose to exclude a lyric sheet, thereby leaving it up to you to interpret the words as you will. The more times you hear each of the songs, the more you become accustomed to San Cisco’s fresh and zesty new music. The catchy hooks and infectious pop melodies are there, and yet, there is even more finesse and variety.
It is not a life changing record but it is a good one. I like it. Many will.
Gracetown was released on March 6th via MGM