Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Sideways to New Italy (Sub Pop) - Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, December 9th, 2023  

Sideways to New Italy

Sub Pop

Jun 05, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

They say consistency is a virtue, and Melbourne’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever has it in spades. Across two long-players and extended-plays respectively, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever has carved out a niche sun-soaked indie rock sound that one couldn’t move for only a decade or so ago. Bizarrely, this means the Aussie five-piece are outliers in an otherwise fairly gloomier contemporary indie rock scene, but that doesn’t make them any less welcome.

Over the past half-decade, the band has plied their trade into “that one sound they do really well” which while lends itself more favorably to their EPs, there has been a subtle growth across their work so far, culminating in their second full-length, Sideways to New Italy. If the previous record, 2018’s Hope Downs, saw the band adjust to their new longer-form setting, Sideways sees them revel in it. While they remain fairly one-note, the quintet keeps building and improving on their well-established sound, keeping themselves fresh in the process.

While there still isn’t a huge amount variation across Sideways 10 tracks, their sophomore effort sees them experiment with motorik, Krautrock-indebted beats on “Cars in Space” while taking on a more Talking Heads indebted art-rock direction on previous track “The Only One.” Rolling Blackouts have always been well known for their big, poppy melodic hooks and Sideways fully utilizes this direction. Even if lyrically the band’s three-headed frontline of Fran Keaney, Tom Russo, and Joe White can be rather cliched at times, the trio more than make up for this with big vocal deliveries on tracks such as the sumptuous “Cameo” or the excellent final coda to “She’s There.”

“Beautiful Steven” doubles down on the band’s increased pop sensibilities, with a gorgeous, almost shoegaze-esque number while “Falling Thunder” is Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever at their absolute top form. Producer Burke Reid (notable for his recent work with Courtney Barnett) does a tremendous job behind the desk on Sideways, giving the record a massive, maximalist sound without losing the smaller intricacies that Rolling Blackouts’ three-guitar interplay is particularly renowned for.

Sideways to New Italy has a dual meaning, as New Italy is both a small village an hour or so out of the world-famous Byron Bay in New South Wales, Australia, but also refers to Tom and, bassist brother, Joe Russo’s Italian heritage. As such, the album is, they claim, one long reflection on each member’s pasts and futures having reached the level of successful touring musicians. Sideways does lose a little momentum in its final third, perhaps because of the weight of this lofty yet admirable concept, or possibly due that aforementioned one-note feeling the band can be guilty of. However, their notable consistency and subtle growth prove this is an act constantly on the rise and one to continue to watch. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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