Updated: Jan 19, 2021
Recognizing the success of their 2018 debut LP Hope Downs, the band set out to record a blissful, pastoral-sounding album. “The songs on the new record are reaching forward and trying to imagine an idyll of home and love,” remarks Rolling Blackout’s songwriter and guitarist Fran Keaney.
The album’s title refers not to the Mediterranean boot, but to the town of New Italy on the Eastern coast of Australia, hometown to drummer Marcel Tussie. As the steady pummeling of Tummie’s kickdrum and hi-hat carry standout tracks like “Falling Thunder,” “Cameo,” and “Cars in Space,” listeners learn that the town of New Italy (somehow) might be just like their hometown - though they maybe listening halfway across the world.
The succinct, packaged lyrics may have faced multiple revisions but spill out like life updates from an old friend still living in your hometown. If Keaney’s lyrics are your friend’s disquiet reveals, Sideways’ radio-friendly sentimentality is a playlist for your muggy late-night drive on an empty freeway.
Behind Keaney’s genuine but restrained vocal performance is Joe Russo’s unrelenting, saturated baselines, buttressing an upbeat but carefully crafted low-end sound, which shines brightest at the album’s midpoint, “The Only One”.
Hitting in the first wave of the record, the band’s studio performance crests on track three’s “She There,” the second of three singles released from the project thus far. Tangy, emotive guitar riffs boost a lush but hidden love song about letting go in a moment where “accidents breathe in time.” Music video director Nick McKinlay and the band premiered a visual component for “She’s There”: a disoriented protagonist runs unseen in dreamscape, ignored by his bandmates providing their diegetic accompaniment.
Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever is now rounder on the edges, with less angst and more sadness in the vocals. Fans of the band’s first LP will be satisfied by their second release, which invokes a similar songwriting style but also brings a more sonically-indulgent and forthright feel. The album’s steady, well-done sap is indie pop rock candy that becomes sweeter on subsequent listens. Sideways to New Italy is out now, streaming on all major music services and right here on INHAILER RADIO.