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Albums of the Year 2019: Angie McMahon - Salt | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2019: Angie McMahon - Salt

Albums of the Year 2019: Angie McMahon - Salt

Ennui, desperation and longing from stunning singer-songwriter debut

Angie McMahon's debut is an album I'll find comfort in for years to come

Appearing on NPR Music’s legendary Tiny Desk Concert series back in autumn, Taylor Swift talked about how, in interviews over the years, she’d been asked a thousand variations on “what would you write about if you ever get happy?” “Would I not be able to do my favourite thing in the world anymore?” she mused.

“I love breakup songs!” Happily for Swift – and for the rest of us who love breakup songs – falling in love didn’t affect her ability to craft heartbreak poetry. “Death by a Thousand Cuts” – which, in “I dress to kill my time”, features perhaps my favourite ever of her lines – is, she told a packed room, a completely fictional breakup song on this year’s Lover.

Heartbreak is a funny thing: at once self-contained and all-consuming. It’s as personal as it gets but, as Taylor Swift’s ascendance to world’s most successful pop star shows, universal. I woke up more mornings than I can count in 2019 sick with anxiety, the climate crisis and political uncertainty churning in my stomach and brain. Against that backdrop, the place where I found the most comfort – me, on the eve of my 10th wedding anniversary – was in Angie McMahon’s hollering: “I’d like to have real love someday soon”.

McMahon, a 25-year-old songwriter from Melbourne, Australia, only released her debut album in July of this year but this is an artist who has put in the hours, touring stadiums in Australia with Bon Jovi after winning a talent contest in 2013 and charming her way to the Grulke Prize for developing non-US act at this year’s SXSW Festival in the US. Lyrically, these songs are full of the ennui, desperation and longing that characterise one’s early 20s, but McMahon’s voice, bluesy and world-weary, is that of a woman who has seen a thing or two.

It’s a combination that’s at its most effective on “Pasta”: “I’ve been sitting at the bar too much, kissing people in my head”, she sings, before shaking off her comfort food-induced sluggishness with technicolour guitar licks and a cry of “I’ve been lost, but I’m really trying”. “Soon” is devastating, a diary entry in search of “real love”: “I’ve been hiding my tears from my mother – she and my father still laugh together, see”. “And I Am a Woman” is primal yet cryptic, a zeitgeist-defining howl; while “Push”, in one line, perhaps sums up this vulnerable, staggering, relatable record: “I’ve never been good at hiding my feelings from my face”. Angie McMahon’s Salt is preserver, purifier, sting in a wound – and an album I’ll find comfort in for years to come.

Two More Essential Albums of 2019

Sudan Archives - Athena

Lizzo - Cuz I Love You

Gig of the Year

Bjork at SSE Hydro, Glasgow for the show; Bikini Kill at Brixton Academy, London for the atmosphere.

Track of the Year

Lana Del Rey - "Hope Is a Dangerous Thing For a Woman Like Me To Have (But I Have It)

Lisa-Marie Ferla's website

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