Just so we’re honest with each other, I am a total wannabe of the Australian music scene. It’s the birthplace of some of the artists that have had the most important impact upon me and my own music this past year. And the best thing about it? It looks like they’re all friends. Mallrat, Cub Sport, and today’s reviewee, Maxwell Byrne aka Golden Vessel.
I’m going to be introducing you to Golden Vessel because despite a string of headline tours at home in Australia, and tours of the US which included showcases at SXSW last year, I’m not so sure if our grey and green little island has been blessed with any of his publicity funding. But that’s cool, because I’m here! On October 15th, Golden Vessel released colt, his second album since entering the music scene five years ago, and a follow up to 2019’s SLOWSHINE. I’m a new convert, but I’m a full convert and I really want you to listen to colt so Golden Vessel’s UK numbers are high enough to bring a tour over here (when such things exist again).
In eleven songs, colt is a soundtrack for anyone on the move, and feeling both restless and regretful. I read on Acid Stag that Byrne said it was a road trip album. Running at just over half an hour long, colt is the perfect length for anybody looking to at least get out of the house for a bit, even if a full roadtrip isn’t on your radar at the moment. Sonically, colt favours bell-like synths and shifting electronic accents, sitting comfortably in the bedroom production sound that has come to be the soundtrack to so many road trip visuals in our social media/self-mythologizing age. Take the single Midwest. An urgent, almost anxious beat, is tempered by lyrics that focus on steadiness in the midst of potential turmoil. You’ll hear sweet phrases like ‘It was just a test cus I think you are the best’ and ‘I don’t want to let you down, I just want to pass this town’. The song clings to doing and things, fixating on images to process emotion. The image of being free in a car, especially travelling across the American Midwest, is a cinematic currency. It might be one we have been handed and made to use, but it’s effective. We all respond to open skies.
Golden Vessel is not the artist hyping you up for a night out (nights out?), or at least not on colt. The music feels meditative. colt is more comfortable as the soundtrack to the quieter, hearing your heart and catching your breath kind of moments. The world feels close and important, especially with Byrne’s calm, deep vocals. His voice is always paced and steady, reassuring you and casting a spell of intimacy. You care for your company when listening to Golden Vessel. He sends me to thoughts of summer evenings on a bike, coming back from a day with friends just as everything goes blue and purple in the fading light. It’s nice to know the album was created with intimacy too, as Byrne said on twitter anything not self-produced was produced by friends.
You’re listening for a turn of phrase you’ll fall in love with on this album, because that’s what we have come to expect from this fluid, evolving sound. Hear blinker’s intrusive realisation: ‘every time I blink I lose a moment, now I wish it hadn’t clicked’. The relatable existential crisis is distilled into a moment that captures the ever terrifying risk of now. In a world where we are forced to look past the surface to the forces behind (political, environmental etc) and ever consider accountability (rightly so), revelling in simplicity and existing directly in real time is a currency we cannot afford to waste.
Alongside the previously mentioned tracks, other initial standouts are besides you and littlebitwild. besides you is a gorgeous way to open an album. It’s an early morning lullaby of wavering, electro picks, and direct and sweet lyrics – ‘besides you no one’s cool and I’m a fool’. It’s a making coffee in the morning song. And littlebitwild! littlebitwild is the reason I’m here. It features Mallrat, best known for smash hit Charlie, and one of the industry’s most exciting voices. I have been obsessed with her sound for the last year, and it’s through her collaborations that I have fallen in love with Golden Vessel and Cub Sport. For that launchpad I will always be grateful to tracks like littlebitwild, but its a good natured earworm anyway. That song has a permanent parking space in my brain, and I’ve been singing it daily since the single was released.
colt is going to be an album that carries me through this winter. It would be easy to say we need colt because we are approaching a grim end to a grim year, and another pretty grim year will probably follow up. This kind of soft beauty is only a balm. I don’t want to think about colt in that way though, because this album is one I’m going to consume and make a part of myself, and I want it to always feel timeless. And it does. Because beauty is timeless, isn’t it?