Review by Cissi Tsang
2020 has been an emotional rollercoaster. Australia greeted the new year with half the country on fire, and now we have a seemingly never-ending pandemic. In these times, we need reassurance that our current state of anxiety and existential dread is not going to be our new normal.
An interesting facet in these dark times has been artists who were able to sense that future audiences required glimmers of hope to sustain themselves, like throwing a life jacket to a person adrift in the sea until the world brightens. One such artist is Josh Pyke, who is returning with his first studio album in five years. Rome is gentle on the ears and on the soul, with lush arrangements, soaring harmonies and comforting lyrics encouraging listeners to appreciate the here-and-now.
There is a gentle thread of melancholy that binds all these tracks together – such as the lead single, Don’t Let It Wait, about taking opportunities before they vanish. “Don’t let it wait til the next time”, because, “…everyone goes // And all of us fade”. The Closing Eye echoes a similar sentiment: ” I wrote you letters in my head // So many things I’ve never said // The ones that we forget to say // Are the ones that we regret”.
This album, however, is not about sorrow, but rather about hope. It is about adapting to change, and learning how to use situations to the best of your ability. Much like the protagonist in Don’t Let It Wait, the main theme of this album is about a realisation that all things will eventually fall into place – even if they are unexpected. Amidst the melancholy, there is also a sense of joy in allowing yourself to be taken by the flow of life, and also defiance in not allowing life’s pains to hurt. “I won’t bend, I won’t break”, Pyke sings in Old Times’ Sake. Still We Carry On speaks for itself in its title.
Rome is a remarkably prescient album for these trying times, and highlights a new maturity in Josh Pyke’s songwriting.