Five years is a long time between drinks. But at a time where the music industry has barely shifted into first gear, we raise our glass to Josh Pyke and proclaim ‘mazel tov’ for the release of Rome, his sixth studio album.
The Australian singer-songwriter is no stranger to wearing his heart on his sleeve with a back catalogue of candid lyrics and music spanning over a decade. However, the eleven-song Rome captures a level of vulnerability not previously seen or heard. It is an honest and raw album that balances emotion and entertainment, sentimentality and light heartedness.
Album opener, Old Times’ Sake gently eases you into the world of JP. Its sweet sound is only outdone by its poignancy and encouragement of contemplation. Single, Doubting Thomas, which has received extensive radio airplay over the past few months, follows with a suitable change of pace. Its toe-tapping beat is reminiscent of other JP earworms and is sure to leave you singing and hoping, ‘Cos I know/ That something good will come around again’. Something good does come around again with the seamless transition into I Thought We Were a River. Like Doubting Thomas, it utilises a full band to create an up-tempo song that would fit well into a live set and have the crowd up on their feet and dancing.
Home, another previously released single, captures the sentimentality of what home can be in a middle of the hill road kind of way. On the other hand, Still We Carry On is a two-minute forty-second magnificent expedition into familiarity. Not a familiarity that equates with tedium, but one similar to a welcoming hug from family or friends. What Still We Carry On captures in under three minutes Don’t Let It Wait slow burns its way in double the time via ebbs and flows of tone. The subtle introduction of brass instruments in the concluding minute is a pure musical delight.
The Closing Eye champions JP’s vocals, which are noticeably on point throughout the entire album, and highlights his lyrical storytelling. However, the absolute highlight of Rome, the gut punch and roundhouse kick to the heart, commences with track eight and continues to track eleven.
Current single You’re My Colour is a catchy love song that is a pure delight. To say it invokes emoji heart eyes would be overstating it only because emoji heart eyes are not real. But if they were, that’s what happens when listening to this song. The serotonin lifting buzz then morphs into something unexpected with I Don’t Know which comes out of left field with its intensity. In two short emotive minutes, JP summons rich sentiments via a vocal, musical and lyrical interweaving of unadulterated precision. This heightened emotion continues into Old Songs Now. The introduction of strings sustains the ongoing intensity until equilibrium is restored when the guitar and drums drop.
Completing the emotive arc is Where Goes the Girl. With a calmer sound than the previous few songs, it forms the ideal conclusion. Notwithstanding the final lyric, ‘It’s all over now’, the last two minutes are an instrumental delight and bring another chapter in the JP songbook to an end.
Josh Pyke is a storyteller who has mastered the art of musical expression. A five-year absence from new music production has not diminished his skills or creativity; in fact, Rome is demonstrative that the music veteran is on top of his game.
Album Review By Anita Kertes