★★☆

 

There’s a new type of ballad in town, and gone are the big chords, big voices and bigger hair. These tunes of communal catharsis are roomy and gloomy affairs; vocals wafting over fudgy chords, thrumming basslines speckled with electronics.

 

Such is the case in Melancholia, the first EP from Melbourne singer-songwriter Bel, which – as the ominous title suggests – sees the 20-year-old hypothesising around the question: what would happen if we embraced the darkness as we did the light?  

 

Lead cut ‘Melancholia’ is the first to try and answer this musing with a vortex of layered vocals and panting funnelling towards a satisfyingly catchy chorus. ‘Big Bad Beast’ taps into the fantastical whimsy of Aurora with a Lorde-like drawl and minimalist groove, while single ‘Dazed’ is a synthy, hazy daydream à la Lana Del Rey.

 

Each of the six tracks have been nipped and tucked with the precision expected from acclaimed producer John Castle (the man behind Vance Joy and Megan Washington), but in their careful shadowing of the queens of downtempo pop-goth, these tracks become exactly that – a shadow.

 

Bel sings with a heartfulness that doesn’t quite transfer to the songs. An alluring, but unabsorbing listen.

Melancholia is out independently on Friday February 10.

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