It’s been five years since Andy Bull’s last album, While We’re Young, and on first listen to his latest LP, Sea Of Approval, it’s immediately clear why he took so long to follow up. Sea Of Approval‘s crystalline production speaks to Bull’s perfectionism, and you can picture him losing plenty of sleep over whether the record was even good enough for release.
Thankfully Bull’s doubt and insecurity are intimated in a way that manages to be neither grating nor self-indulgent. Sea of Approval deals with anxiety in a wilful, almost joyful way and at only 10 songs it’s a tight, structured set.
Bull has slogged away within Australian music scene for a good while, and as such he’s had to please a lot of people. Baby I Am Nobody Now deals with the frustration of trying to be unique while also being accepted.
Keep On Running picks up a similar notion, leading with the lyric, “I swim in a sea of approval, I do”. He continues this theme by detailing the never-ending conversations in his head on Talk Too Much and the need to be ‘liked’ in a world of social media on Loved Like You.
Watch: Andy Bull – Talk Too Much
Bull juxtaposes the lyrical content with beds of lush synths and pulsating ’80s-inspired beats, maintaining the fact that at its heart, Sea of Approval is a pop album. Each song is sonically related, relying on the occasional vocal manipulation and instrumental detours to keep things interesting a la the piano-break on The Hill,
The latter is a good example of Bull’s ability to know when enough is enough. At certain points he offers up patches of sunlight with gushing synths and candied melodies to counteract some hefty lyrical content. So That I Can Feel Better is at once the artist at his most personal and optimistic.
The album opens with the cinematic, R&B-flavoured, Just One Expression, while Just One Line offers an intermission. The ethereal synths of Something I Guess follows on and the album finishes with the voluminous ode to letting go, So That I Can Feel Better.
While the pop sensibilities and that voice are still present, Sea of Approval is a remarkably different piece of work to Bull’s first album. It shows lyrical growth, a willingness to experiment and an impossible ear for melody. He really has nothing to fear – Sea Of Approval is an excellent sophomore record.
Andy Bull’s ‘Sea Of Approval’ is out today.