written by Chris Familton
Sometimes an album has its way with you, works its way inside your head and your heart, takes up residence and begs you relentlessly to keep coming back for more. The debut album from Sydney songwriter Suzy Connolly does just that and though for her the words mean something else, the line in the opening track Gold sums it up – One more taste you’ll addict me, Addict me again”.
Connolly has captured a wonderful mid point where classic pop rock song structures, tempos and melodies interweave with shades of breezy indie strumming and more than a few brushes with americana colours. The aforementioned Gold gives a nod to both the vocal delivery and confessional, heartfelt style of Lucinda Williams though Connolly doesn’t have (or need) the sharper edges of Williams’ voice.
Lyrically Connolly is capable of some clever wordplay such as the fire theme of Antony with lines like “We will start a fire that burns forever” and “We will sound the fire alarms together”. Coupled with a super melodic hook of a chorus the words ring true rather than slipping into too cute metaphorical territory. She knows when a song requires direct words emphasized through repetition and when to take lyrically adventurous turns with oblique phrases like “Shadow boxing silhouettes with side street whores” on Juniper Boy. The exceptional pop hook of Antony is only one of many infectious moments on an album overflowing with head nodding, sing along highlights. Your Comedown is complete with handclaps and a momentum heavy chorus that tumbles and rushes, its positive mood belying the venom in Connolly’s critical lecture of sorts to a friend or lover.
The production on Night Larks is crucial to its success. Josh Schuberth produced, engineered and mixed the album and he has given it a wonderful warmth and lushness when needed while also having the skill and restraint to pare things back to minimal instrumentation and up front vocals on a song like Best In Life. He allows Connolly the space for her vocal range (emotionally and tonally) to be heard and he ensures the words are supported by the soundtrack rather than buried within it.
Through the eleven songs on Night Larks you get the sense that Connolly has lived, loved and learnt a fair amount in her life and her greatest achievement is how she has translated those experiences into her music. Much of the subject matter focuses on relationships, the side effects and the dissolution of them. Unlike many artists who work in similar territory Connolly doesn’t allow the music to sink into dark moods and any sense of wallowing in one’s misery. There is refreshing sense of optimism in the music that gives emotional strength to the overall feel of the record and makes it feel like an ALBUM rather than just a collection of her best songs.
Connolly has the grain and tone of singers like Adalita, Chrissie Hynde and Lucinda Williams yet she doesn’t rely on any one of those or any other specific influences when it comes to creating her own voice. She possesses a fresh, confident and moving voice in the style of confessional songwriting. In the closing track Sea Dog she places the onus on the subject of the song to decide whether he is prepared to take the good with the bad and make the relationship work. It is a fitting end to an album that lays itself open and does it so well that the listener has no choice other than to pour another glass of wine, hit play yet again and succumb to its intoxicating brilliance.
Night Larks is out now on Laughing Outlaw Records