Monday, November 14, 2016

Night Swim | Josef Salvat

A poised, charismatic man, Australian singer-songwriter Josef Salvat carries himself as such. In fact, throughout a listen to his slow-burning debut album, it's quite challenging to believe that Florence Welch and Sia Furler, the queens of the pop maximalist movement, are among his biggest influences. While he does put Rihanna to shame with his understated take on the Sia-written "Diamonds" on the deluxe edition of Night Swim, he lacks overwrought inflection, acting as a cool fall breeze that restrains his music from taking the abrupt flame that his musical role models' tunes do.

Albeit typical, his vocal delivery is cool and collected; really, it's hard not to picture him cutting the vocals for "Every Night," a track that reeks enough effortless swagger for the entire album, in a '50s greaser outfit with a smoking cigarette stuck between his index and middle fingers. But unlike many men in the industry who think that the voice and the attitude are enough, he sets up camp on the coastline of alternative electronic pop as one of the few men to have ventured into the moody, female-dominated genre. His specialty? Pop music that is murky yet alluring, understated yet breathtaking.

"Open Season," his most popular single to date, paints him as an upbeat second cousin to Top 40 pop, but further dabbling with grandiloquent pop isn't anywhere to be found here. Instead, his craft most often includes sweeping swan dives into deep pools of heartbreak. Subtle, compounding swells of emotion bring most of his tracks to dramatic finales, whether that means spirals from fragility into a haze of vengeful drums and guitars ("Punchline") or eventual sways under the pressure of additional layers, mimicking an uneasy Jenga tower ("Shoot and Run").

Salvat may lack a solidified sonic direction, dabbling in a bit of everything within reasonable bounds of his niche, but he delivers a personal, enjoyable experience nonetheless. The sole songwriter of every track spare the "Diamonds" cover, he manages to keep this album standing as a singular body of work with a consistent lyrical tone. Essentially, Night Swim is what its title track implies: a calming, enveloping dip into a private rooftop pool. Salvat's charisma draws listeners in, but the warm waters of love and heartbreak keep them mesmerized.

Night Swim is available now under Columbia Records.

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