thu 20/06/2024

Album: Laura Jean - Amateurs | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Laura Jean - Amateurs

Album: Laura Jean - Amateurs

Evidence that Australian singer-songwriter should breach her own border

Laura Jean's 'Amateurs': deft

Much of Amateurs is observational. “Folk Festival” ponders appearing at said event: is the place on the bill right; would fitting in be easier if the lyric’s subject were a different age? During “Market on the Sand”, it’s wondered while browsing whether there is “something here that is meant just for me”.

Amateurs, by Australia’s Laura Jean Englert, feels as if it’s the result of a period of contemplation. The album begins with “Teenage Again”, an acoustic guitar-driven mid-tempo folk-rocker with a Neil Young feel. “When I was 17, my mama couldn’t handle me” are the opening lyrics. Approaching any album as a direct missive from an individual’s psyche can be questionable – songwriters are not necessarily literal or even singing about themselves. But there seems to be some unembroidered reportage here.

That Amateurs is deft is already clear. Folky in the early Seventies Asylum Records way, it features swooning though subtle string arrangements which bring a melancholy air. Vocal melodies can be minor key, and when piano is the lead instrument notes are picked-out sparingly. Englert’s voice is often supplemented by filigreed chorale flurries. New Zealand’s Aldous Harding and the similarly New Zealand-born but Melbourne-based Marlon Williams contribute vocals to three tracks.

Although Englert’s first album came out in 2006 – Amateurs is her sixth – there’s a slippage between the extended timeline and her status outside Australia. In Europe she’s supported Courtney Barnett and Harding, both of whom emerged later and have slimmer back catalogues. And perhaps that contrast feeds into the album’s title track. "Finally got my own dressing room” she sings while also declaring “amateurs never made a cent from love”. After all this time, she remains an amateur and appears to accept any potential ironies about her artistic or commercial situation. Predicting where Amateurs takes Laura Jean Englert is impossible, but despite the diffidence expressed this is an assured, enthralling album. Time, then, to stop being overtaken and hit the road beyond Australia.


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