Australian indie pop outfit San Cisco have just released their second studio album, Gracetown. With three EPs (Golden Revolver, Awkward, and Beach) and their self-titled debut studio album already under their belt, it’s safe to say that San Cisco is here to stay.
The quartet (made up of Jordi Davieson, Josh Biondillo, Nick Gardner and Scarlett Stevens) was formed in 2009 as they finished high school in Fremantle, Western Australia. A few years later, they released their hit single “Awkward”, which has now amassed more than seven million views on YouTube. That single, along with “Wild Things” and “Fred Astaire”, have all placed in Triple J’s Hottest 100. The band worked on Gracetown with producer Steven Schram and it’s now entered the Australian charts at #2, only just falling behind Madonna’s Rebel Heart.
Gracetown is miles better than their self-titled debut and it speaks volumes about the progress San Cisco has made with their sound. It definitely has a more mature feel to it, but it’s still filled with the simple melodies and good hooks that they do so well. It’s also worth mentioning that the band is currently touring the album in America and Mexico without bassist Nick Gardner as he’s literally shot himself in the foot—there’s a photo of the wound in various places on the internet but I don’t recommend checking it out.
The album begins with its first single “RUN”, an upbeat track that according to the band started out as a “drum and bass groove”. Syncopated gasps and handclaps create a pretty interesting beat in this one that works surprisingly well. It’s super catchy and even though the single was only released in October, it still managed to come in at number 33 on the Triple J Hottest 100 last year. The second single from the album is “Too Much Time Together”. The song is about a dysfunctional relationship and it’s apparently the track that took the least amount of time to write and record. Again, the track is catchy and upbeat—the kind of thing that San Cisco does best. The guitar chords are reminiscent of their previous work and the lyrics are refreshing and real with the chorus “We spend too much time together/ I wanna be with you forever/ But we need space/ You should stay at your place”.
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The first track on the album that features Stevens as the main vocalist is “Magic”. The track uses vocal percussion and has a late 90s pop vibe to it (think Nelly Furtado but cooler). “Snow” is another highlight from the album that heads in a more electronic direction. It starts off feeling pretty dreamy before jumping into some high pitched vocals. Like many of the songs on this record, it’s about broken hearts and relationship struggles—this time in terms of the strain that touring and travelling puts on relationships.
The tone of the album changes slightly with “Wash It All Away”, a song that came about from playing around with “filthy drum sounds and high vocal melodies”. It’s a little more relaxed than most of the other tracks on the album with lyrics like “Tell me is it love or a lust?/ Be honest, be honest”. It’s followed by “Bitter Winter” and then “Jealousy” which is another interesting track that began as finished music. According to the band, “Jordie just freestyled some words” on it and “it turned it out to be pretty cool”. And it did—a definite highlight, and it also features Isabella Manfredi from The Preatures.
Towards the end of the album is a fairly simple acoustic track called “Skool”, a lighthearted high school love song with lyrics like “English was not my forte/ But I fought for you/ Distraction was just a reaction to you”. It’s simple and cute, and it’s a definite throwback to the band’s earlier stuff, which is cool because it keeps that youthful vibe around.
Ultimately, this isn’t an album that I can fault. Every song on this album is endearing in its own way, they work well together and they’re also great standalone tracks. The fact that the band can so easily break up vocals between Davieson and Stevens is always impressive, but on this album it really adds another dimension to their sound. It’s not often that a whole album comes together without at least one somewhat disappointing track, but with Gracetown San Cisco has done it well.