It wasn’t quite summer in the city, but she was on her way.
The humidity clung to the streetlights along Broad Street while, in the backroom of a bar, Amy Shark stood on stage. The stage itself was small — hardly more than a glorified soapbox, if we’re being honest — but, the singer-songwriter didn’t need much room. It was just her, with guitar in hand, and a drummer, perched behind a modest kit, after all.
And somewhere on that stage, a classic track jacket — now slightly signature of Sharks’ style — laid discarded as she introduced the next song.
She wrote it when she was a teenager, she explained. She couldn’t believe she was going to play it out loud — because, aren’t we all slightly embarrassed by the things we wrote as teenagers? — let alone, out loud to a room full of people in Philadelphia.
Shark’s Aussie cadence, delightfully juxtaposed with the giant neon cowboy boot in front of the bar, flitted through the speakers. “Anyway, it’s called ‘You Think I Think I Sound Like God.’”
This was the first time I saw Amy Shark perform live. It was early June in 2017 — a Friday night in the City of Brotherly Love — and while the indie-pop singer has moved on to bigger stages since then, the backroom-of-a-bar kind of intimacy continues to weave its way throughout her music.
Released in July of this year, Amy Shark’s debut album, “Love Monster,” is a guitar-pop dream brimming with thoughtful electronics — hyperaware of their own gravity — and guitar — gentle in its rock-ability. Featuring the lead single, “I Said Hi,” a passive-aggressive nod to the naysayers, “Love Monster” is a marriage between these sonic parallels.
The acoustic and synth; the casual sway between electro and trap-pop — without being trapped within the genres themselves — Shark’s debut album is buoyed by infectious melodies.
From the simple and charming album opener, “I Got You,” to the mood-and-a-half that is “Middle of the Night,” the album rolls along luxuriously. But, “Love Monster” is at its best when it is anchored in honesty. And over the course of nearly 50 minutes, the Gold Coast-native never relents in wearing her heart on her sleeve.
“Adore,” the hit track from her 2017 EP, “Night Thinker,” is a case study in being hopelessly in love. “Don’t Turn Around” deals with the universal experience of running into an ex; “The Idiot” handles falling out of love, and perhaps the regret of falling in the first place. These experiences, while personal to Shark, are also wholly universal. We’ve all fallen in love. We’ve all had our hearts broken, and we’ve all wondered “what if?”
Yes, “Love Monster” is sonically solid, but the album’s strength lies in its heart: in the simple truths, the melancholy and the vulnerability that Shark mines. And that honesty is, perhaps, best exemplified in the closing track.
“You Think I Think I Sound Like God,” the same song she played that night in early-June to a small crowd in Philly, is a ballad that simply explodes in passion after nearly three minutes of slowly burning.
“I don’t want to fight with you / Just want to make it better / Just want to wear your sweater / Have coffee in the morning / Make you laugh when you’re yawning” she sings, accompanied only by the occasional guitar strum.
And whether a testament to — or perhaps a metaphor of— Shark’s own journey, “You Think I Think I Sound Like God” succeeds in delivering a satisfying catharsis, and for me, a much appreciated full circle.
The Song That Comes on and Hurts the Most
In its most tender moments, “Love Monster” is a rich meditation in heartbreak — in love and loss; anger and acceptance. And I think that’s why it’s taken me so long to put into words just what this album is.
Because this is a heartbreak I see myself in.
“And it’s gonna be tough cause I got a few things to work through / And I’m all loved up in a world I can’t explain,” Shark sings on the shimmering track, “All Loved Up.”
And while I haven’t worked through all the stages of this heartbreak just yet, “Love Monster” makes it easier to picture myself whole again, one day. Because if Amy Shark isn’t swimming backwards — and with the synth-warm, indie-pop success that is “Love Monster,” it doesn’t look like she has any plans to — than neither am I.
Stand out tracks: All Loved Up; I Said Hi; Middle of the Night; Mess Her Up
Ashley Cline is an avid introvert and full-time carbon based life form currently living in south Jersey. Since graduating from Rowan University with her Bachelor's in Journalism, she can usually be found singing show tunes to her dog, drinking too much iced coffee and wearing beanies. Her personal best at all-you-can-eat sushi is five rolls in eleven minutes. You can find her yelling about Carly Rae Jepsen on Twitter and posting photos of her dog on Instagram.