EP review: It’s all ‘Cortisol and Blue Light’ for chanteuse Anna Smyrk in her sparkling new EP as she announces tour dates.

Feature Photograph: Jeff Andersen Jnr

The Breakdown

'Cortisol and Blue Light' is a package that delights and entertains with a melodic pop majesty suffuse with an indelible glow.
MGM/Independent 8.6

Melbourne artist Anna Smyrk has an exquisite ability to match a muscular indie pop instrumentation with her melodic vocals that are filled with witty, self-deprecatory observations on the human condition. Smyrk has just released her new EP ‘Cortisol and Blue Light’ collecting together her two recent singles and adding a dollop of extra goodness with two additional tracks.

And it is a package that delights and entertains with a melodic pop majesty suffuse with an indelible glow. There is a raw vulnerability that threads throughout the glitter – Smyrk says the album is:

…a collection of songs about fight or flight, the feeling of being pushed and pulled at the same time.

The EP was recorded in Nashville with award-winning producers Jake Finch and Collin Pastore (Lucy Dacus) – an experience that had an enormous impact on Smyrk’s creative process:

I loved working with Jake and Collin in Nashville so we connected again when I had new songs to record for the EP. It was wild to be recording across continents and time zones. I’d get up really early and jump on Zoom in my apartment in Brunswick, and they would be online in the evening from their studio in Nashville. I didn’t know if I’d like doing it that way, but it felt good. I liked being in my own space, sending tracks back and forth and listening to what was going on in the studio in real time.

The result is something that is spacious and intimate at the same time.

Opening track ‘I Don’t Want To Meet Your Mother’ is a bright vivacious track with an iron spine and a velvet skin. The lyrics are delivered with a sardonic glint in the eye that captures the mundane vicissitudes of existence with an SLR camera precision and depth:

Hanging around in our little town
We got nothing to do, we just drive in my Ford Laser
It’s getting too cold to have the windows down
You’re not as funny as I thought you were in summer

This is the end, but we pretend
Cos no one wants to say

The tinge of melancholy contrasts with the bright and bubbly vocals and the thumping rhythms. Smyrk says of the track:

I wrote this song thinking back to my first relationships. I grew up in a small town but I had all these big dreams. I didn’t want to get tied down to any one person or place. So I always kept a wall up, I didn’t want to accidentally find myself in too deep to get out.

In ‘Arrived’ Smyrk’s vocals soar across glistening piano rolls and a building instrumentation – with a chorus that is expansive and endless. The production is crystalline and clear, soaked in a melancholy bath of sounds as Smyrk sings of the euphoria of success. Smyrk has the ability to create stirring affirmative music touched with yearning.

‘The Runner’ is a swiftly-paced anthem – filled with a hyper kinetic energy and an indelible melody. There is almost a shoegaze wall of sound to the instrumentation while Smyrk’s vocals have a contrasting softness that shines through the mix.

Developed with new collaborators, producers Jake Finch and Collin Pastore, Smyrk says of the track:

Everything came together really quickly on this one. The producers and I just clicked as soon as I walked into the studio and a few hours later we had the track. (‘The Runner’ is)… a song about trying to overcome a fear of letting people get close, that fight or flight instinct that can lead to self-sabotaging a relationship. So it’s a deep self-examination, but I hope it’s also a bit of a banger. We tried to go for a feel-good vibe that makes you want to jump around, or maybe even go for a jog yourself.

The lyrics reveal Smyrk’s wry and self-deprecatory sense of humour and romantic bent:

Despite the fear
Try to let my guard down
There’s something here
That makes me want to stick around

Baby I’m a runner
Baby I’m a runner
Baby I’m a runner
But you make me want to stay right here

The result has all the trademark elements of Smyrk’s craft: a thunderous instrumentation and a powerful delivery with a poetic lyricism that shines brightly.

‘Live Slow, Die Old’ takes a tongue in cheek with the apposite idea of a quite life in contrast to the live fast die young credo, embellished with a romantic brush. This sums up Smyrk’s music in a way – something that is inherently comfortable and secure with her warm vocals and wry approach.

‘Cortisol and Blue Light’ as the title infers is all about balance and good mental health – and the EP becomes the perfect medicine to achieve this. Out through MGM, you can download and stream the EP here and through the link below.

Smyrk will be taking the EP on the road in Australia and Germany – details below:

Friday 28 April
Workers Club, Melbourne

Friday 5 May
 Ipswich Civic Centre, Ipswich QLD

German Tour – May – June 2023
Friday 19 May – Volksbad, Madgeburg
Saturday 20 May – Savoy, Bordesholm
Monday 22 May – Tonfink, Lübeck
Tuesday 23 May – Kaufbar, Braunschweig
Wednesday 24 May – nFilou, Steinhude
Thursday 25 May – Deichdiele, Hamburg
Friday 26 May – Lagerhalle, Osnabrück
Saturday 27 May – Jazz Lev, Leverkusen
Tuesday 30 May – Alte Utting, Munich
Wednesday 31 May – Alte Brauerei, Annaberg
Thursday 1 June – Mora Bar, Dresden
Friday 2 June – Bahnhof Open Air, Kötzting
Saturday 3 June – Hafen 2, Offenbach
Sunday 4 June – Haus Am See, Nuremberg
Monday 5 June – Live Club, Bamberg

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