I vividly remember the first time I saw Angie McMahon live. The Jezabels had announced a week-long residency at The Lansdowne in Sydney, and with each of these shows, a different act opened as support. Out walks Angie and her guitar. As humble and nervous as you’d expect someone to be supporting such an influential band in Australia at the time, Angie played a short half-hour set announcing she was soon to release a new single. This single turned out to be “Slow Mover”, and from that moment, you could consider me an Angie McMahon fan. And here we are, six years later, as she is about to release her second album Light, Dark, Light Again and here I am, as big a fan as I’ve been.
Acting as the follow-up to her acclaimed debut album Salt, here on Light, Dark, Light Again, you get the feeling the past four years since LP1 hasn’t been the easiest on McMahon. I mean, if I had a bout of prolonged illness, matched with a pandemic and general self-doubt about losing control over my life, I’d also be pretty miserable. What sets me and Angie apart is that I wouldn’t be able to use this to write an album that could prove to be many people’s favourite album of the year. An album about facing your fears in the darkest of times only to come out the other side stronger for it, Light, Dark, Light Again is a relieving scream from the top of a mountain, middle fingers pointed out to the abyss after you’ve just conquered an absolute shit fight of an ascent.
A step up in production and vibe from her last album, McMahon placed an emphasis on creating songs that are warm, cosmic and vast in their content, volume and vibe. This is seen on third track “Fish”, with its simple yet almost hypnotic percussion throughout, it is a song that touches on themes of faulting relationships and coming to terms with the end of said relationships. With similar themes but completely different vibes, “Letting Go” is an absolutely beautiful and triumphant three-and half minutes that’s as close to sounding like Bruce Springsteen as you think Angie will ever be. A song with a killer mantra about it being okay to make mistakes, “Letting Go” is the coming-of-age song you wish you had as a completely lost teen or 20-something making things up on the run.
While the album in general feels more upbeat and fuller than its predecessor, there are still plenty of moments that make you sit back and go, ‘ah yeah, there’s the Angie McMahon I know and love’. From the piano-led “Music’s Coming In” to the swirling “Saturn Returning”, thoughtful yet heavy “Staying Down Low” and masterful “Fireball Whiskey” (featuring a reference to an experience I have a feeling plenty of 18-22 year olds have been through during a night of over indulgence), these are the parts of the album that remind you of the vulnerability in McMahon’s music since day dot.
And while I will always love the sadder, slower tones of Angie’s music, I’m really here for this new, bolder approach to most of the songs here on Light, Dark, Light Again. The hopeful and progressive “Divine Fault Line” touches on the notion that sometimes you need to be at rock bottom before being able to move on. The bubbling, churning and racing “Exploding” is completely authentic from its opening notes, before going complete supernova over its closing 90 seconds of lush and euphoric guitar. I genuinely look forward to the day I hear this live with a full band.
The peak on the album without doubt is “I Am Already Enough”. A triumph for finding confidence in yourself and pushing back against all those forces that tell you you’re no good as you are, “I Am Already Enough” feels like it is already (or will almost definitely be) a call-to-arms for all young people persevering through life as they grow into who they are. I feel like it will be a song I’ll be able to show my future daughter or son when they’re down in the dumps to remind them they are who they are for a reason and that’s all they need to be.
I wrote at the time of the release of her debut LP that it would be an album that would be looked back on in ten years time as being responsible for shaping so many artists. I didn’t doubt Angie’s talents then, and I don’t doubt them now. Light, Dark, Light Again is something special. Angie has evolved enormously as an artist on this album. After a time of doubt, she has found herself. Light, Dark, Light Again is an album of growth, confidence and acceptance. It will go down as one for the ages. I’m stoked Angie has come out the other side of the past few years; I hope she is too.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Light, Dark, Light Again is out now
Header image credit: Bridgette Winten