Album Review: Ex-Olympian – Afterlife (2020 LP)

Songwriter and musician Liam McGorry has been on the Melbourne music scene in various guises for the past decade. But, he’s now taken the solo plunge with the moniker Ex-Olympian and debut album Afterlife, creating a sunshine-filled indie soul record.

McGorry will be known to many from his work with Saskwatch, Dorsal Fins and Eagle and the Worm, all being relatively large ensembles, so his maiden solo endeavour was both an opportunity and a leap of personal faith. He admits he had his moments of doubt but the final product is a strong first-up effort. Reminiscently, Afterlife is about bravely starting a new phase.

Ex-Olympian’s connections lead to numerous cameos which add depth to the album (albeit ironically given it’s a solo switch), including from former Saskwatch bandmate Nkechi Anele on “Lilac Youth” and Melbourne native Sam Lawrence on second single “Penny In The Well”.

McGorry also dips his toe in the water vocally for the first time too, namely on first single “Voices In My Head” which has glitchy samples à la The Avalanches‘ “Frontier Psychiatrist”, combined with classical violin and cello. It’s a mix that works.

As that example suggests there’s a wide instrumental range in this fine album. But, throughout there’s a high line of craftsmanship and quality production that brings it together. Lyrically McGorry takes three tracks to get going but opens up about farewelling someone close and moving on in “Penny In The Well”.

There’s a jilted beat and flugelhorns on fourth track “Ripple In Time”, which is a lyrical lesson in perspective with a production that emits sunshine and hope. The funky groove on “Lilac Youth” is a standout, alongside with the spoken lyrics and McGorry’s signature trumpet.

The title track is about not dwelling on the past, while “Voices In My Head” speaks about our current day multiple stimulations, or as McGorry puts it “a cave dweller with the modern convenience”. “Brother”, featuring McGorry’s long-term friend Jarrad Brown, is a wonderful penultimate track, with a gentle touch and great beat, but it also summarises the album well; with a sound lyrical depth yet uplifting undertone.

McGorry may self-anoint his work ‘dream funk’ but he never takes himself too seriously on this album, exemplified by the fact he signs off with an ode to his dog, Porcini. There’s a lot to like about the soulful and warm Afterlife.

THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Ex-Olympian’s Afterlife is out now. Keep up to date with Ex-Olympian via Facebook and Instagram.

Ben Somerford

Aussie freelance journalist, sports, music, entertainment, top 10 lists. Take beach pics too.

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