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Words by Kate Lockyer

Indie pop darlings San Cisco, from Western Australia, have spent the last ten years amassing multiple accolades and delighting fans at festivals internationally. Now, the Fremantle trio have released their highly anticipated fifth studio album ‘Under The Light’. The album brings us the sun-soaked brightness of the classic San Cisco sound, and more importantly, the wry smile that comes with their slight lyrical irony that made Awkward such a hit.

Spending the first half of the year deep in studio sessions split between LA and Fremantle recording ‘Under The Light’, the forthcoming record is a collaborative work with producer James Ireland (Pond, Cuco) and mixed by Grammy-award-winning engineer Neal H. Pogue (Steve Lacy, Tyler The Creator, Outkast) and Anthony Dolhai (Mø, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kesha). “Collaborating with our close friend and producer, James Ireland, was an exciting and fresh journey that allowed us to fully actualise our musical aspirations. The album was predominantly written and recorded in our studio, kitchens, and living rooms at home in Fremantle,” the band explains. “This unique experience was unlike anything we’ve undertaken before, and we couldn’t be prouder of this body of work.”

Lost Without You charts a path through love that acknowledges the warts-and-all of a relationship that may have been through some rough patches but is ultimately the only way forward for them. When lead singer Jordi Davieson sings, “Life’s never boring when you’re my ride or die / They want us dead or alive”, I chuckle at the thought of someone slightly annoyed with a friend, cheering themselves up with the thought – ‘well, at least they’re not boring!’ Levity aside, San Cisco seem to be tackling deeper themes around love and devotion in this latest album.

That said, High is a fun one, and I’m obsessed with the funky, flick-your-hair-back nonchalant riffs. While the rush of meeting someone new is exhilarating, it comes with nervousness too. San Cisco explains: “The feeling of falling deeply in love is paradoxically euphoric and terrifying. It can become a breeding ground for your insecurities, what I think of as ‘lovers imposter syndrome’. When you find yourself besotted with such an inimitable person, we can often be left to face the fear of failure, of ‘not being good enough’ or impressive as them, leaving us entertaining the idea of falling from these newly found heights and losing it all.” 

The title track, Under The Light, deftly captures the insecurity that lurks below the projected nonchalance and the flippancy of the party scene. San Cisco strip back the exterior of pickup lines and makeup to confess – “Under the light, you never know if it is fake or love”.

One Percent gives life to the dying gasp of a relationship, when you’ve been through it all and you know it’s nevertheless not enough. The soft acceptance of this is wrapped in the snappy sum of “Out of love, out of lust, out of time, out of trust”, completing this catchy chorus with a compelling harmony line.

The album’s bio, written by good friend and collaborator Nick Allbrook (POND, Tame Impala), reads, “Like tears on New Year’s Eve catching the glitter of fireworks at midnight, San Cisco’s fifth LP ‘Under The Light’ strikes the delicate balance between euphoria and melancholy that elevates the best pop music from a good time to something more like a cherished friend.”

I don’t think I could do a better job of capturing the essence of this album. In particular, this sums up my favourite track, featuring Allbrook, Summer Days. “Never thought I’d get so lonely in the middle of a disco” and “Too dark to see me cry, to loud to hear me say, why?” Jordi sings, captivatingly frank. The synth and guitar do an entrancing job of evoking that whirl as a scene set in the present dissolves into a flashback, as the scene of the downer disco disappears and Jordi reminisces about summer days and the person he’d rather be with.

Honeycomb is a mellow but cute love song. Much like the real thing, the song is sticky and sweet and will linger in your head long after it’s over. The lyrics “I don’t want savoury, I want sweet / I left room for dessert cause you’re my favourite treat” have me picturing all sorts of delightful desserts, the percussion popping like bubblegum and Scarlett Stevens’ voice light and soft like honey, while the synth swoops in with a light and playful touch, much as you would imagine the lovers in this song flirting with each other.

Find Yourself Here Again takes a moment to express a darker emotion, and the minor key and the low and rich acoustic guitar marks a departure from the other tracks in the album. This is accentuated further in with a dramatic strings and brassy distorted guitar solo. As we wander this landscape with San Cisco, they reveal that this landscape we are finding ourselves in again is our own heads – depicting the gloominess that happens when we rely on external factors to keep us happy. Sooner or later, we find ourselves back, caught up in our heads, with no-one to rely on but ourselves.

‘Under The Light’s new thematic stage in San Cisco’s songwriting is made clear in Horoscope, a song steeped in reassurance and the chiming of bright electric guitar through a warm blanket of vocal harmonies. This album is a reflection on where they have been, how they have changed, and where they are going next, in varying degrees of optimism. This song, though, brings to mind the idea of magical thinking, when working and planning towards a dream also takes a little bit of faith and hope. Jordi sings “Don’t stop dreaming / Everyone needs something to believe in”.

The last few tracks focus on the idea of life not turning out how you expect – with funky guitar a compulsory extra. Family Trust and Consequence, much like other tracks in their back catalogue, like Awkward or On The Line, turn a grappling with different truths about relationships and identity into singable bops. Returning to the disco motif, this time sonically, Into My Heart incorporates the jingly guitar riffs and falsetto vocals but asks, fittingly for the last song of the album, “I’ve got nothing left, is this the end?” Leaning into heartbreak as well as acceptance and hope, the album makes room for us as the audience to feel those bigger feelings in San Cisco’s music, and I can’t help but imagine the charged atmosphere when we get to hear this album live.

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With thanks to Positive Feedback

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