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Australian singer/songwriter Siobhan is rising as one of Melbourne’s 2012 “artists to watch.”  Her recently released debut album, ‘Soldier Heart’ is a mix of sincere breezy vocals (think Corinne Bailey Rae) alongside rootsy folk pop akin to Local Natives.

Opening the album is “Don’t Take Her Heart if You’re Gonna Let Her Down.”  This lonesome song presents itself like an outstretched hand wanting to stop the inevitable heartache of an unhealthy relationship.  With delicate piano notes and bongo beats, the story is told alternately through the eyes of the frustrated yet desperate woman involved and the concerned friend witnessing the hurt.

The title track soon follows, a coming-of-age tale of wresting with self and society.  “My restless heart it will not lay, a revolution calls my name,” sings Siobhan while plucking guitar.  The transition into the marching chorus in an aching call, a recollection of what is slowly slipping away – “my heart, my heart.”    Siobhan states in her biography that “The term ‘soldier’ was used to represent the structure that society places on an individual, whereas ‘heart’ represents the part of an individual that remains forever the dreamer.”

“Soldier Heart” expresses the reluctant realization that “no matter how hard you try to avoid being governed by expectations and structures of society, there comes a point when you do in fact have to succumb to these expectations to some degree in order to find meaning within the irrational framework of society.”

While the album is deeply grounded in the harshness of reality, it is not overly somber.  Lighter tracks include the easy going slightly jazzy mood in “Karma Carousel”, the beckoning ramble of “Come on Home”, and the adventurous playfulness of “Penny Farthing” backed by booming drums and rhythm guitar.

Siobhan consistently displays lyrical beauty, as evidenced in the soothing reminiscence of “Georgia Road.”  Swaying between the reflective lulls and the pushing rhythm of moving on, Siobhan sings, “So you bleed yourself dry, you put your heart on a wire, just to make things fell like he’s around.  And although it’s all painful, you like it ‘cause it’s stable, it gives you some peace of mind.”

For the final track of ‘Soldier Heart,’ the guitar strums along trudging drum beats.  Siobhan’s vocals seem on the verge of grieving the reality slowly settling in: “I sit in my kitchen and the clock it’s ticking.   It’s then that I know that dusty rose, you ain’t, you ain’t ever gonna grow.”

“Dusty Rose” brings the album full circle, again resisting shallow promises, lamenting the stunted bloom of what should have been.

Rating: 4.5/5


Hear the ‘Soldier Heart’ album on soundcloud.