It’s not very often that artists from down under make an impression in the United States. In the past few years, only Lorde, Flume and Troye Sivan have been able to garner a consistent audience here. But, this year there has been a growing buzz around new indie pop artist Amy Shark.
Shark broke into the industry’s collective consciousness last year with her single “Adore.” The song is a slow ballad to a crush that is simultaneously intimate and anthemic. Shark’s aching honesty and rawness lit a spark among listeners, and quickly became a smash hit.
In the following year and a half, the singer-songwriter would sign to a Sony imprint, release an EP to follow up the single and play stages around the world. She was also chosen as an Apple Music Up Next Artist, and won two ARIA awards. Though she has been branded as an overnight success since “Adore” exploded, she has been working towards this point for 15 years.
Shark released her debut album “Love Monster” July 13. The record is 14 tracks and features work from an interesting mix of talented producers, including Jack Antonoff, Mark Hoppus (Blink 182), Joel Little and M-Phazes.
Many debut albums are filled with tracks that sound like different versions of the original hit that broke them into the mainstream. This, however, is not the case on “Love Monster.” Each song is a unique snapshot story, and the various producers keep the sounds differentiated just enough.
The songs are a mixture of angsty alternative and pop music. It’s glossier pop punk that is guitar driven but isn’t afraid to use synths and programmed beats. It feels heavily influenced by the famous pop punk bands of the ’90s. Best exemplifying this sonic homage is “Psycho” which features Mark Hoppus of Blink 182. The production and writing has also been influenced by rap and R&B artists like “Don’t Turn Around” where she sings in a dripping cadence over stuttering beats.
It is rare for a woman over 30 to be making her debut, so “Love Monster” walks into largely uncharted territory. Instead of forging a new path, Shark plays younger. Though she is 32 and married, the songs are mostly about budding flirtationships and getting over exes. Focusing on this content makes it more easily accessible for the younger demographics. It’s a safe move, but it leaves you to wonder where she could have gone had she taken the risk.
Though the perspective feels younger, the songs all sound like they are genuinely portraying what Amy Shark has lived through. And it’s likely that they are. She started officially working on the album last year, but there are songs on “Love Monster” that Shark wrote over five years ago. These older compositions are able to fit cohesively with her newer songs in ways that not many artists can pull off.
When it comes down to it though, Shark’s voice is really what makes these songs engaging. It’s not like she’s out here belting high notes or technical runs, but she gives strong, raw vocal performances. Her voice is what really cuts through to the emotion of the songs. Her accent and slight twang also make her sound distinct from other female pop artists.
“All Loved Up” is one of the standout vocal moments on the record. Produced by Jack Antonoff, it is one of the happiest tracks on the record. In the chorus, she sings in fragile falsetto with little support from the track. She really shines here.
The album’s closing track “You Think I Think I Sound Like God” is an amazing ending to the album. What starts as a heart-wrenching plea swells to a cathartic scream. It captures the emotional vulnerability and detailed songwriting that makes Shark such an interesting artist.
“Love Monster” is an exciting debut album. Crafting an album is hard, but debuts are even harder. Amy Shark completes the tricky move with simplicity and delivers an album with little to no filler.