As the wind howls and rain incessantly falls outside, inside the warmth and cosiness of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s Sideways to New Italy envelopes the moment. Nothing else seems to matter. At least not for forty-five minutes.
The Melbourne five piece’s sophomore album is a welcome presence in these strange times. From the recognisable guitars in The Second of the First, a sense of familiarity, a perception of home is felt. This familiarity and hominess form the underpinning motif of Sideways to New Italy.
The album negotiates varying styles succinctly and thoughtfully. There is pop-on-pop magic with singles Falling Thunder, and She’s There. These ear worms leave a lasting impression with their melodic lyrics and spirited sound. There is the emotive Beautiful Steven; calmer than previous songs and concluding with a surge of guitar. There is a carefreeness with The Only One, a song that promotes presence while simultaneously allowing you to blissfully drift away with the music.
Then there is the lead single, Cars in Space. Forming the peak of the album’s dramatic arc, Cars in Space contains a sense of urgency from the opening cords. This urgency builds audibly and emotively via a vortex of three guitars and breaks lyrically, ‘At the intersection/ Waiting on the corner/ Bottom of the freeway/ Before it opens up’. It renders you breathless, yet satisfied.
As the dramatic arc begins to wane, Sideways to New Italy continues its course of thoughtful variety. There is the tempo bending Cameo like a surfer riding a set. There is the buoyant Not Tonight offering comfort and understanding. There is the lyrical Sunglasses At the Wedding, a surprisingly pleasant departure from the prominent guitars. There is the Los Angeles inspired The Cool Change, the concluding song, and a juxtaposed bookend of the first.
Lead by singer-songwriter-guitarists Tom Russo, Joe White and Fran Keaney, with bassist Joe Russo and drummer Marcel Tussie, Sideways to New Italy invokes a melodic calmness and conviviality amid a world of chaos and confusion. It is an album full of warmth. Like the warmth of sun-kissed skin, or the warmth of bodies dancing in the mosh watching Rolling Blackouts C.F. on the stage. It is a perfectly timed release, that drop of sunshine during the cold Australian winter and a musical highlight of 2020.
Album Review By Anita Kertes