A couple standing on a mountaintop. Sharing glasses of wine against the backdrop of the city skyline. And then, all at once, they’re separated, forever left to long for each other in a seemingly endless cycle of drifting apart. In the music video for “Darling It Hurts,” the new single from Australian pop musician Andy Michaels’ second album Incendiary Heart, we witness a romance at its most vulnerable and crushingly evocative, and whether you’re in love at the moment or feeling lonesome just being on your own, its content is as relatable as its musical drive is. In every song on Incendiary Heart, Michaels is as open as an artist can be in a studio setting, living up to (and quite often exceeding) the expectations he set for himself on his rookie release Revisited.
The music video for Darling It Hurts” is an epic, but honestly I don’t know if it’s quite as gripping as the foursome of “Rambling Man,” “Only Love Knows the Meaning of Goodbye,” “I Can Fly” and “Humming Bird” are. These four tracks are the pillars of Incendiary Heart, each of them providing a sonic suite of color, texture and emotion that will be sampled from in the other songs on the album, and I think that all four would make prime fodder for a remix EP if Michaels wanted to release one. The folk influences play a heavy role in this record, but they’re never repeated on any two occasions; each track sees this singer/songwriter embracing a different face, and with it, a different channel of communication ranging from the guitar to the piano and back to his honeysweet vocal.
I really dig the juxtaposition of countrified harmonies and rock n’ roll aesthetics in some of the songs here, such as “Sticks and Stones” (with Carolyn Thomas), “The Flame (with Kerry Ironside)” and “Only Change Stays the Same,” and I would love to hear Andy Michaels experiment with this formula a bit more liberally on his third LP. He has a lot of different ways that he can develop his sound right now – after all, he’s only two records into his career – and if he were to spend a little more time refining the blatantly pastoral components of his music, I think he could appeal to a lot more fans well outside of his Australian homeland (namely the United States and Canada).
There’s still room for improvement, but my gut tells me that Andy Michaels is going to be breaking into the mainstream a lot sooner than later. He shows off some major skills in Incendiary Heart, and whether he’s flirting with Nick Cave-like darkness in “Night and Day” or handing over the reins to an equally talented singer in Tiarna Madison in the title track of the album, he doesn’t appear to be reticent about chasing after whatever sound he wants to create. Young singer/songwriters just starting out could stand to take a page or two out of his playbook when it comes to making the sequel to a well-received debut album; for this critic, his controlled approach and conservative attitude serve as a breath of fresh air.