WORDS BY THOMAS FREEMAN
Western Australia indie/pop rock band San Cisco are back with album no. 4, Between You and Me. Since their first upload to Triple J Unearthed back in 2010, the current trio have established themselves as one of Australia’s best indie-pop groups, capturing the sunny sounds from Perth, and taking inspiration from a variety of other alternative artists, like Vampire Weekend and MGMT. It’s been 3 years since their last album The Water and only a few months since their Flaws EP, which does make up part of the new LP.
BYAM is their most consistent album yet, with a strong mix of really nice sounding instrumentals and solid writing. Stylistically, it’s similar to their self-titled LP from 2012, but also takes elements of what made their 2015 follow up Gracetown such a bit hit across Triple J, as with 2017’s The Water. It’s also a really nice regression into what made the band stand out in the early 2010s Australian music scene, with Triple J’s Hottest 100 favourites like Awkward (no. 7, 2011), Fred Astaire (no. 48, 2012)and Too Much Time Together (no. 49, 2015) quickly becoming crowd favourites (and they still are to this day).
Their new album also goes and recaptures those fun and groovy tunes that we all originally fell in love with, and it makes for one of the strongest parts of BYAM. The album also shows growth in the band through their lyrics, showing how they’ve changed over the last 10 years by really diving into the melancholy of growing up and facing reality, mixed with some sweeter-sounding instrumental rhythms behind it.
The album also feels like it was one the band worked on for a long time, with When I Dream being released back in 2018, Skin in 2019, the recent EP and some pretty amazing singles earlier this year. Lyrically it feels personal, whilst musically it sounds like something that they’ve really put a lot of effort into, as well as one that feels like it was made with the long-time fans in mind. The band described it as “a collection of special songs, from us to you”, as well as an album for the fans who buy their music, attend their shows or have supported them over the years. BYAM really does feel like that throughout the 11 tracks and with the long time San Cisco spent making it.
On the Line, one of the recent singles, really stands out as one of the record’s biggest highlights, both instrumentally and lyrically. It’s super catchy chorus and rhythm feels like sunshine to the soul, but also something that takes the listener back to their debut LP from 2012. Jordi and Scarlett’s alternating vocals and combined harmonies really bring the message of the track though nicely, with it being about a relationship that’s slowly coming to an end, and with a catchy hook that summarises it nicely:
“Could you love me? (love me) one more time; Could you put it all (put it all) on the line?”
Messages is the other big stand-out track for me personally, with its upbeat disco keys and killer lead vocals from Scarlett. Listeners will definitely relate to this song a lot, with it being all about friends who don’t reply to texts, give out those empty online compliments or that only seem to care about you when they need something themselves. Driven more by synths than guitars, it feels like something off The Water, but fits perfectly here on BYAM. Production-wise, it’s one of the best sounding songs of the record, and it also boasts one of the best bridges and choruses that BYAM has to offer too:
“And I know that you will do anything you wanna do. Yeah, I’m gonna fade from you like a temporary tattoo”.
Other familiar favourites like Skin and When I Dream fit nicely into the album too, as well as providing some of the more mature lyrics and new sounds on the record. Adding an acoustic guitar to some of their songs really makes the whole album standout in San Cisco’s discography, with it effectively driving the melodies in many of the tracks (these two being key examples). When I Dream also carries one of my favourite lines from the whole album, which personally resonated heavily with me since dropping in 2018:
“I’ve lost a few good friends lately and I think it’s my fault, not theirs”.
Reasons is another groovy-sounding yet lyrically sad song. Listeners will be familiar with this one from the Flaws EP. The chorus is definitely a catchy one, even though a tad repetitive, but this song really the production and instrumentals are really what make Reasons a great song. Jordi and Scarlett’s combined harmonies and yet again a blessing for the ears here, and the riffs are definitely
Shine follows the groovy production and sounds from Messages, with a funky sounding tune behind it all. It shows that the band weren’t limiting themselves in what they were trying to achieve when making the album. It’s definitely one of the more pop-styled songs of the album and one that I think crowd will enjoy when the band gets to play it live again soon.
Alone is one of the better new songs from LP, with its extremely relatable narrative about missing a loved-one who lives a long distance away. Jordi’s vocals shine as some of his best here as it feels like it’s one of the most personal songs from BYAM, bringing a lot of passion in his performance and through more excellent lyrics. The slightly over-autotuned hook is a tad distracting at times, but nevertheless Alone does feel like one will get a lot of airtime of the radio and get the audiences emotions flowing at their gigs.
Gone is another from the recent EP. It sounds very grand with its underlying echoing vocals, synths and strings in the chorus, but also sounds like a blend of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, Lana Del Rey’s Young and Beautiful, and something more tropical with the drum machine in the verses. Similar to tracks like Alone, it feels like another of Jordi’s personal and emotional ballads, but it doesn’t quite have the same weight to the other songs on the record, and makes for one of the more forgettable tracks, even with some consistently solid writing.
Tell Me When You Leave Tonight is instrumentally another great song and continues the more acoustic transition as listeners hear throughout the album’s second half. It’s another one that fits nicely in the LP as a whole and feels like something the audience would expect at this point in the tracklist. It doesn’t stand out too prominently amongst the other songs, but it does begin to wrap up the album’s narrative for the closing song fairly well.
The title track closes out the album nicely, with one of the more stripped back and lyrically-emotive songs. Being one of the slowest songs on the record doesn’t restrain it, but instead gives a dreamy feeling to fade out the record. I think it’s also one of the most vigorous in the writing, which is why it works so well as the finale to the album, especially with lyrics like:
“And our love was my favourite melody. Now our love is just a memory”.
With the catalogue that San Cisco created over the last decade, it’s hard to say whether Between You and Me is their best album simply because all of their albums are a bit different in their own strengths (like with another Australian alt-rock band Ball Park Music), but you can’t deny that this new record has some of the best music that the band has released in a while with fantastic writing, production and musical talent behind it from start to finish. Fans of the band will really like this new album, and newcomers will easily be able to catch on with the great hooks and sweet melodies.