Gold Coast singer Amy Shark’s 2016 single ‘Adore’ went platinum two times, and came in third on the ARIA charts. Upon first listen, it’s abundantly clear why; it’s a sleepy, dreamy piece of indie pop excellence, punctuated with heavy beats and murmured, understated vocals. Rarely has a song managed to capture the full aching scope of unrequited infatuation, and make it sound so good. Everything from the tongue-in-cheek bridge lyrics- ‘I’m known as a righthand slugger/anybody else wanna touch my lover’ is fantastic- to the clever use of simple chords seemed to indicate a strong new presence in the Australian indie scene.
Night Thinker, her first EP, confirms that indication. It’s a six-song, 20-minute journey through the emotional low and highs of young adulthood, presented delicately and tenderly. ‘Drive You Mad’ opens strongly, to a synth reminiscent of a soft alarm, with a little more kick than ‘Adore’. It’s littered with studio touches, added effects and layered vocals- but despite the slickness, none of it is overpowering. If it weren’t executed so simply and cleanly, it might have been a stadium anthem. As it is, ‘Drive You Mad’ seems made to be chanted by alternative teenagers at a house party. That’s not a bad thing; the song is well-written and catchy, and its lyrics are introspective and thoughtful, with an echoing refrain of ‘I’m enough’. Shark’s talent as a producer is obvious.
‘Weekends’ is another ‘Adore’ at first, albeit a little more upbeat, but the late crescendo lends it a little more emotional power. Again, Shark’s lyrics work well with a repeated central theme- ‘only on weekends’- and the whole package is dizzyingly romantic, if a little repetitive. ‘Blood Brothers’ yanks the EP out of the slower tempo, though, and ends up sounding so perfectly infectious that it’s virtually impossible not to smile. It’s sweet but a little fierce, with Shark’s smooth voice taking on some edge with the chant ‘I feel like a million-dollar bill/hanging off your arm so chill’, and an insanely catchy beat. If you ever entertained the thought that you’d grown out of your misspent youth phase, ‘Blood Brothers’ will teleport you back into late nights with questionable love interests that your parents disapprove of.
‘Deleted’ is a sweet and lush ending to to Night Thinkers, featuring an unusual acoustic guitar, and what seems to be Shark’s trademarked layered, soft vocals. The surrounding instrumentation is much more grand, though, with sliding synths that sound like manipulated strings- it’s a definite conclusion, tying off the EP with a nice cathartic bow. The absolute standout, however, is ‘Worst Girl’ – a shiny, glittery gem of a ballad. It works better than ‘Weekend’, with darker synths and a surprising, delightful cameo from Allday, who injects it with a sort of earthiness, with his unapologetically Australian drawled vowels. It’s a perfect counterpoint to Shark’s otherwise dreamy, lazy vibe, and they bounce so well off each other that the entire song sounds magical.
After the mess of Halsey’s irritating, faux-edgy aesthetic, and Melanie Martinez’s tiring overproduction, Amy Shark is refreshingly laid-back and contemplative. She fills the need for honest, raw emotional indie pop. She’s not here to impress anyone, or put on a show, or pretend to be some Lolita-esque alter ego (looking at you Lana del Rey). Her songs are tender, romantic and wistful, and most importantly, wonderfully in tune with how emotions really feel. For her first EP, Amy Shark has set the bar high; hopefully, it won’t be too long before she delivers on Night Thinker’s promise.