Relentless Sunshine 2022
Allaying her fears and laying delights down to sleep, American artiste accesses the furthest reaches of her soul for all to see and feel.
“Using all my senses never occurred to me,” sings Alice Austin to the stately and spiritual instrumental slow-burn of country balladry scattered across her sophomore solo offering. Indeed, if fronting BLACK SABBITCH, the Ozzy-endorsed all-female BLACK SABBATH tribute ensemble doesn’t allow this Vermont-bred Los Angelena to fully express the passionate feistiness and romantic subtlety she’s possessed by, the lady’s personal career should provide the listener with the opportunity to get to know the real Alice – as opposed to the Austin they might remember from the turn-of-the-millennium indie-queens ZOLA TURN. And getting to know her is quite a trip – not towards Wonderland, though.
The songstress has retained her erstwhile alternative edge and sometime aural assault which make “Goodnight Euphoria” arrestingly uncategorizable and welcoming repeated spins, yet whereas opener “No Such Thing” flaunts an insistent, albeit dry, defiant riff, nihilistic enough to feel superficial, and drenches Alice’s voice in acidic guitar noise, the dramatic, ivories-encrusted “Oxygen” will reveal the platter’s entire depth, that’s so difficult to fathom, further down the line to allow it to be related to the recent pandemic or perceived in cinematic terms of love and care. The artiste doesn’t forget about her pop past, of course, so “Everything You Touch” is as easygoing as any glorified chart entry – and more effervescent and nuanced than most of those, thanks to her sweet tone.
With finely detailed psychedelia oozing out of Austin’s delicate strum and languid vocal delivery on the mesmeric “Wooden Mind” until the piece’s chorus renders such echoing enchantment painfully touching, and the album’s vibrant title track enhancing the acoustic anxiety to smooth all emotional angles once bluesy licks replace the equally exquisite flamenco lace to cleanse the slate and quench the chanteuse’s anger, there’s a lot of stylistic variety on this cathartic record, no matter how logical the songs’ flow is. As a result, the deceptive inertia of “Relentless Sunshine” – the showcase for her soft pipes – conceals vigor to release it in the tremulously scintillating “Loveless Waste”: the tune as catchy as “The Neighborhood” – a twangy number that’s firmly rooted in the ’60s retrofuturism, marrying rockabilly beat and analog synthesizer to macrocosmic self-conscious stance.
However, “Never Occurred To Me” – Alice’s affectionate and warm invite to a relaxed “dance of missing beats” – and the diaphanous “Jellyfish” distill the drift to pensive folk, the latter a tight duet between Austin and producer David Drouin, whose presence on the “The Ward” helps the lady define her nuclear reserve – a prerequisite for the unhurried-yet-heavy impact of “Saving My Tears” in which her velveteen voice is carefully carried, on the tide of piano and strings, into the light of a new dawn. Euphoria may rest for now – at least till the morning when this musical masterpiece has got to sound refreshed.