Where is this generation’s “In Your Eyes”? Our “Come Talk To Me”? That song to blast as we passionately, earnestly raise the boombox high over our heads outside our beloved’s window at twilight. It’s been a while since we had one of those songs — something expansive and elegant; big-pop that feels as personal and tender. Let us humbly offer the music of Sydney’s Gordi — 23-year-old Sophie Payten. Her debut EP, Clever Disguise gets at it both ways — massive and personal music that doesn’t concede an inch of artistic vision.
Raised in the small, farming community of Canowindra in Australia’s New South Wales, amongst a minuscule population of 2,381, Payten learned to play piano and guitar in her house — with Billy Joel on near-constant rotation. She left the rural life in her late-teens to pursue a medical education in Sydney alongside her musical career. The dichotomy of those environments — the pastoral and the modern — is surely a guiding influence in Gordi’s music. Earthy, wistful folk songs are cloaked in delicate-but-bold electronic production. And what an effortlessly flooring voice to carry it all, at once fractured and brimming with richness. These are songs you could hear bouncing through the alleyways of the city as much as you could hear them rolling across the fields. Fans in Payten’s native Australia have already been treated to a number of these magical musical moments courtesy of consistent rotation on triple j and FBi Radio, including nominations for a triple J J Award and 2 FBi SMAC Awards in 2015, on top of being named triple j Unearthed’s most played artist during 2015.
The single, “Can We Work It Out” has the big, worldly drums of those aforementioned Peter Gabriel classics and a towering, multi-layered vocal chorus that will instantaneously sear itself into your musical memory. The soft gallop and airy melody of EP opener “Nothing’s As It Seems” feels like the bittersweet sunset of a four-day weekend on the water. “So Here We Are”, a heartbreaking lo-fi piano and vocoder-led ballad. While the instrumentally lush “Wanting” submerges you in a joyous sonic landscape, a bold aesthetic for a tale of longing and reconciliation.
Moments in the EP may recall the early albums of Beth Orton, but more storming and redesigned for the stadiums, festivals and amphitheatres of the 21st Century. Staking that claim, Gordi is already sharing stages with contemporaries like Of Monsters And Men, Bon Iver, Highasakite, The Tallest Man On Earth and more. Clever Disguise was created with Melbourne producer Ben McCarthy with additional production by Alex Somers (Sigur Ros) and Francois Tetaz (Gotye). And if it’s merely an aperitif for what Gordi has coming up, we’re in for a magnificent show.