As an art form, song is largely decorative. Oh sure, there’s substance – loads! – but it’s only when you spend an album with Sarah Mary Chadwick that you realise how much emphasis most artists place on bells and whistles.

Sarah-Mary-Chadwick-CoverOne nasty old pre-set church organ and its built-in robot rhythm-ticker are the only things the Melbourne songwriter needs to colour the soul-scraping world view poetically described by the title Roses Always Die. Her early morning smoker’s voice is less concerned with pitch than red raw and uncompromising communication of her own depression. “You should see me on my knees in the alley,” she croaks – and so we do, too vividly to look away.

Titles like Yunno What, The Fire That Torched My Fear and Every Year’s The Same promise much and deliver far more. Right Now I’m Running gives us “my soul through a sieve”, for instance. It’s tempting to wonder how a more traditional sense of music production might make her fabulous skeletal melodies soar, but it’s the cold psych ward atmos that keeps us hanging on every burnt and blackened phrase. Fans of Cat Power will recognise the uncomfortable proximity to self-harm in Chadwick’s words and delivery. Worry only if you don’t care.

Roses Always Die available August 5 via Rice Is Nice

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