Folktronica New release

“Billionaires for presidents/Parking fines at hospitals”

Simple lyrics that highlight stark truths, exposing some of the shocking inequalities of modern life, delivered with an infectious smile by Alex the Astronaut.

Alex the Astronaut. Photo credits: Jess Gleeson.

The lyrics quoted in the headline are from her debut ‘Already Home’ single, released in 2016, which introduced a unique voice in folk music. An artist drawing from the deep well of the Australian storytelling tradition.

Since then Alex Lynne has continued to chronicle her own everyday life and report the keenly observed experiences of others, culminating in her sensational feelgood debut lp The Theory of Absolutely Nothing. (Reviewed below.)

In terms of her own life, the single ‘Not Worth Hiding’ dealt with her coming to terms with her sexuality and became an unofficial anthem of the yes vote during Australia’s marriage equality referendum. ‘I Like to Dance’ is a moving account of domestic violence. Rather than casting herself in a, possibly, inauthentic role, she interviewed domestic violence support workers and researched true stories of those who had suffered abuse.

Whatever the subject matter, Alex the Astronaut pens crazy earworms of the very best kind. Whisper it, some sound positively anthemic.

Speaking about her debut lp, Alex, from Sydney, said: “I transitioned out of college, I went through my first break up, I lost a friend, I got into my first proper grown-up relationship, and I started seeing bigger problems in the world.”

I wanted the songs to mean something to me, to sit in my values, and I also wanted them to be a group of songs that told stories that meant something to the people that heard them.”

In a year that has delivered so many body blows, and with more sure to come, a drop of idealistic folk-pop is a much-needed tonic.

The Theory of Absolutely Nothing (Nettwerk) is out now.

The Theory of Absolutely Nothing

Reviewed by Cath Devo

Alex the Astronaut is described as ‘folktronic’. I’d go with this description as this debut album with its mainly acoustic guitar-based (sometimes piano and strings) and lyrical songs show. The dittys seem simple but are packed with lyrics that tell stories – some relatable; others telling. A scene is painted with each story. The songs feel upbeat or maybe that’s just Alex’s voice and delivery. But they sometimes have a melancholy feel, for example, the string section during ‘I Like To Dance’ – with its theme of domestic violence about a six-year relationship turned bad. ‘Please don’t feel sorry for me/I don’t want your pity/I just wish he’d stop hitting me’.

Even though she’s 25, Alex seems wiser than her years. In ‘Split the Sky’ she talks of growing up, comparing the difference between being 17 and then skips to age 23 and yet feeling the same – the same catchphrase of ‘tell all my friends I’ll be alright’. This is relatable as we travel through all periods of our lives? That was my thought about this song anyway – especially in the year 2020, shittiness beyond comparison – when life is hard for all ages with everything going on in this world.

But my favourite song on the album is ‘Banksia’ with its gorgeous reference to these Australian wildflowers. It’s what I love about this album overall – the descriptive lyrics painting a picture (whether bright or sad) but one of hope maybe in this crazy world. ‘The banksias fall as I’m walking home for you/The banksias fall, they’re bright red and gold for you’.

4 out of 5 stars! 11 songs 35 minutes ­perfect album length!

Too many protest singers, not enough protest songs?

Comment by Andy McCulloch

Maybe the nature of social media has rendered the protest song pretty much redundant. Political arguments have been reduced to sound bites of fewer than 140 characters. Make America Great Again. Get Brexit Done. By any yardstick, artists today have their work cut out to make a political point in all the noise.

Back in the day, Bob Dylan could present one burning topic to his legions of fans and ‘tell them how they saw’ (to misquote Bowie). With climate change presenting an existential threat to all of us, single-issue songs perhaps don’t get as much purchase. Overt campaigning is out; subtle commentary is the norm.

Without looking too far forward, maybe Alex the Astronaut could be added to an eclectic (and, admittedly, far from comprehensive) list of contemporary protest artists. Acts like Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, IDLES, Rhiannon Giddens, Jasiri X, J.S. Ondara, Ramy Essam, Frank Turner, and Pussy Riot.

For sure, the names in the list have experienced wildly different circumstances, but in their own way are simply espousing freedom for others that the majority of people take for granted.

What do you think? Let us know below.

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