Review: Olympia - Flamingo

Album cover for Olympia's second record: Flamingo.

Album cover for Olympia's second record: Flamingo. - Credit: Archant

Melbourne-raised singer-songwriter pens sophomore record of intelligent, fresh and vibrant alt-pop.

Flamingo is the work of Melbourne-raised artist Olivia Bartley, and follows her 2016 debut Self Talk, which was shortlisted for the Australian Music Prize and nominated for an ARIA.

The weight of expectation as a result doesn't appear to have fazed her though - recorded over two months in New South Wales, Flamingo has an easy-on-the-ear ebullience and vibrancy buoyed by brass, jangly guitar and a clear instinct for pop melodies.

Inspired by the intertwining of grief and desire, Flamingo references a close relationship of Bartley's that ended in tragedy. But rather than record for catharsis or explanation, she has inverted it for use as a positive creative fuel.

Star City leaps out of the speakers with bouncing rhythm, fizzing guitars and irresistible, summer festival-friendly chorus to open the album. Listen closely and you'll hear Bartley unpicking childhood dreams gone awry - a hint of the light-and-dark mixology achieved by the likes of Alvvays.

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Recent single Hounds is driven forwards by a thumping drum, thrumming guitar and Bartley's soaring, strident vocals triumphantly calling out fakery. Together they make for an arch guitar-pop gem that even Blondie would be proud of.

Elsewhere, Shoot To Forget is anthemic, staccato and swooning in equal measure, taking elements from new wave and '80s power-pop.

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So far, so fun - but Bartley is more than capable of letting the emotion percolate - and given the driving forces behind the record, it's hardly surprising to hear the melancholic, stretched notes of First You Leave, or the grief steeping in the waters of the love-choked, low-key Won't Say That.

Nervous Riders also strips back the musical bombast to reveal a pure and ethereal voice akin to Natasha Khan (aka Bat For Lashes), detailing the diminishing returns of a loved one slowly letting her down, set to delicately mellifluous guitar.

Flamingo is a compelling listen that is at once clever, deep and deceptively simple.

4/5 stars.

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