Another stylish slice of indie pop, more mature, more confident and more irresistible.
San Cisco return with their eagerly awaited third album “The Water”, following the tracks “Slo Mo” and “Hey, Did I Do You Wrong”. It’s the follow up to their smash “Gracetown” which reached #2 in the Australian charts in 2015. The band (Jordi Davieson, Scarlett Stevens, Josh Biondillo and Nick Gardner) have toured extensively in the years in between, but have found time to keep ducking into recording studios to lay down 10 tracks.
The album opens with the breathless “Kids Are Cool” which is a funky toe-tapping anthem hurtling along like the best 80s video game music with mesmerising backing vocals building to the singalong chorus. Vocodered vocals, funk guitars and an irresistible rhythm make this a brilliant hook into the LP. The pace doesn’t slack as the soaring “Sunrise” follows with a cool synth motif reminiscent of CHVRCHES (or Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire”) and a gorgeous chorus which demonstrates how expertly the band meld their retro sensibilities with great indie pop.
“That Boy” is more of the slightly off-kilter indie pop in the vein of breakthrough hit “Awkward” with a bouncy theme and warm vocals usually hiding the darker realities of relationships. The track brings to mind the Cure at their poppiest peak with its cascading keyboards. “The Distance” begins like a lost Blondie track, certainly wafting in on a summery disco breeze which Daft Punk, Pharrell and godfather Nile Rodgers have proven is still as catchy and bankable in the 21st century. Beyond this, the track is another classic indie pop love anthem reflecting on the gulfs in relationships. Jordi’s line “Baby, tessellate, I wanna connect with you if it ain’t too late “ is both yearningly romantic and also archly sexy.
The laidback summery track and most recent single“Hey, Did I Do You Wrong?” is a change of mood and tempo, bringing dreamy strings and nostalgic, wistful lyrics. Relying mostly on an earworm of a string refrain with some Fleetwood Mac “Albatross”-esque drifting, low key drums and gentle, yearning vocals, the track hazily invites you to contemplate things past, with a retro organ rounding out the mix at key points. It’s a lovely track which is both feelgood and regretful all at once and another great reason to check out the band’s material past, present and future.
“Waiting For the Weekend” is both dreamy and exotically synthy but is blown away by the standout “Slo Mo”, the first single from the album, which is an instantly singable slice of goodness. It’s a rattling indie track and also brings to mind some fantastic retro references like Nena’s “99 Red Balloons” and the Scissor Sisters’ “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin'”. Not many acts could release a full on dance stomper with a title suggesting the opposite and telling a slightly more twisted tale than the straightforward euphoric chorus suggests.
Album title track “The Water” begins like the best driving rock anthem of the 1980s, part Bon Jovi, part Billy Idol, all moody and hinting at trouble ahead. Typically, it’s a less-than-straightforward romance being narrated with the dark synths and Jordi’s lyrics (“I don’t think we could feel any more unwanted”) coming together beautifully. It’s followed by another standout tip of the hat to the Cure with the storming “Did You Get What You Came For” all jangly guitars, synths and drum machine crunches.
The album closes with “Make Me Electrify” which brings a degree of symmetry to proceedings and cements the band’s dabblings with funk and disco, reminding me again of the Scissor Sisters, but also Depeche Mode’s “I Feel Loved” at times.
A third album can find a group coasting or inexplicably veering from their strengths, but here San Cisco play to theirs. They’ve returned with a more refined version of what they do best, bringing together inspired indie and pop music references to create brilliant, instant indie pop jewels. An average album will have you spotting the obvious singles and skipping the filler, whereas San Cisco prove once again that they can turn the idea of a standard LP into a showcase, another effortless greatest hits.
“The Water” is out now on Island City Records/MGM.
Check out my interview with the band’s charming frontman Jordi Davieson here.