Album Review: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever write in dialogues. The lyrics which accompany their hazy, urgent dreamscapes pose questions for other voices to answer, which is one of the many advantages to having three lead vocalists. Like a hungover post-party debrief, the Melbourne 5-piece threw thoughts across the group from person to person on their first two EPs while letting their dreamy jangle-pop roll out beneath them. Hope Downs, their debut album, finds them knotted up in anxiety, confronting personal and political truths while painting on a breezy facade.

Hope Downs by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever artwork

The quintet’s technique for dealing with panic is to let their runaway-train take on woozy Americana collide with frenetic rhythms. Opener ‘An Air Conditioned Man’ sees the formula at its best: calm vocals soar, untouched by the duelling guitars below. Rummaging through a fugue state that follows a breakup, its freewheeling monologue throws out gems: ‘a lifestyle in single file’ is a particularly direct line. Boldly countered by a second voice, the narratives and dialogues that characterise the group’s writing comes to the fore while a sharp guitar line carves a solo from the dusky instrumental.

The sharp production standing guard over the risk of overcrowding is key to the album’s laid-back success. Knitting together three guitar lines, the album never falls into dense or soupy territory; guitar lines are elegantly intertwined, vocals are exalted to hover from the clouds. ‘Mainland’ sees the group fold angular post-punk riffs into their sunny sound in an album standout while ‘Sister’s Jeans’ plays into country with a sublime slide guitar, recalling Courtney Barnett. Even as the band sing in Magic Gang-esque harmonies and let their guitars converse on politically-charged ‘Exclusive Grave’, the production never lets the band collapse in on itself.

The perfect summer album, Hope Downs is idyllic indie-rock with a paranoid undercurrent. Whilst sometimes reliant on a regular formula, the 10 tracks deliver on the promise shown on their earlier EPs and continue their inter-band conversations over gliding guitars and pounding percussion. An earnest War On Drugs for the sad boy generation, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever craft smart, light and intricate guitar-pop. They may write in dialogues, but their success isn’t open for debate – Hope Downs is a charming triumph from the new band on the rise.  


Lead photo: Warwick Baker