Published Jul 24, 2019On her debut album, Salt, Melbourne, Australia-based singer-songwriter Angie McMahon is looking for her place in the world. On the standout single "Pasta" — a quirky rock jam for the discontent — she illustrates her precarious position by pointedly asking: "How am I simultaneously on top of someone's pedestal and also underneath someone else's shoe?" But as much as McMahon's lyrics are riddled with uncertainties, Salt, as a whole, is a confident debut.
The songs are anchored by McMahon's electric guitar, which she pounds or softly strums, depending on how she's feeling. Often, McMahon's songs start quietly and slowly, but steadily bloom into riotous rock tracks. At their boisterous peak, McMahon has a grand realization or admits something difficult: "I'm not your teacher" she insist in the pinnacle of "And I Am a Woman." "I don't want somebody but I do… I wanted you," she snarls on "Standout."
The "about" section of McMahon's Facebook page simply reads: "Yells words at microphone." And yeah, McMahon does do a lot of emphatic yelling on Salt. In the final moments of "Missing Me," for instance, McMahon's howl is particularly gripping when she spits, "You better be missing me now." But McMahon doesn't stay just on one pitch; she is constantly moving, silkily, from her effusive, gravelly cries to rich murmurs that rumble like a summer thunderstorm.
On the heartbreakingly beautiful closer "If You Call," McMahon swaps her electric guitar for an acoustic. Here, she tries to let go of someone, McMahon's restrained voice softly flutters, and she gets to the crux of her album: "I just want to feel it, feel that I like who I'm becoming and feel alright in the quiet."
Personal tumult is not an unusual topic for an album, especially by someone in their 20s, but McMahon's sharp lyrical phrases and outstanding voice are enough to make Salt a fresh and exhilarating debut. (Dualtone)