Originally published 27 April 2014 on The Under Age.
Melbourne musician Chet Faker is somewhat of a mystery.
Somehow securing a Splendour in the Grass spot two years running in spite of a collective solo discography of one EP, Faker’s long-awaited arrival on the Australian music scene Built on Glass unveils the curtain on the man, the beard and most of all, the voice behind Nick Murphy, aka Chet Faker.
Debuting at #1 on the ARIA charts, Built on Glass has already been a monumental success for the rookie, but more importantly, an important step in defining Chet Faker as an artist. The album opens with the soft piano inflections of ‘Release Your Problems’ before the sweeping sound of an aeroplane brings the song into full momentum.
The opener, followed up by singles ‘Talk is Cheap’ and ‘Melt’, present Faker as a confident, self-assured lover. His words unfurl over his own jazz fusion production, supplanted by wavy backing vocals that roll through a listener’s ears.
What really stands out from the first half of Built on Glass is Chet Faker’s ability to serenade on a hook. Evident on album standout ‘Talk Is Cheap’, Faker builds with some restrained verses and delicate lyricism before a powerful chorus that asserts Faker onto the song. It’s an example of the many strong hooks on the richly layered album.
At track eight, the seventeen second ‘/’, a crackled voice denotes the ‘other side of the record’ and the departure is evident from the opening lines of track nine, the brilliant ‘Blush’. With distortion thick on the production and his vocals, Faker dives into territory reminiscent of his 2013 collaborative EP Lockjaw with Sydney producer Flume.
Familiar too is the instant hit ‘1998’, recently released as the second official single from the album. With a pulsating dance beat and hand claps, Faker wobbles over the beat with a new-found sense of vulnerability in an album stacked with confidence. The throaty chorus of “We used to be friends/We used to be inner circle” unveils a character and a depth of lyricism that is as equally layered as the production.
On an album so forward-thinking and easy on the ears, the misses are few and far between. ‘Gold’ sticks out like a sore thumb as a clumsy misstep, with an annoying guitar riff and Faker’s voice switching from smooth and assured to high and nasally. Likewise, the closing tracks ‘Lesson in Patience’ and ‘Dead Body’ leave the album ajar on a strange note after such a strong build to album highlights ‘1998’ and ‘Cigarettes and Loneliness’. The subdued conclusion doesn’t the fit the powerful tracks preceding it, and leaves listeners unsure how they’re supposed to be feeling after a crash course of emotion.
Nonetheless, for a first release, Faker exhibits a kind of confidence and polish not seen on many records. Far too often are debuts merely flashes of potential, filled with too much effort or not enough care. Faker generally finds the balance with a deep, layered and accessible record that is sure to be one of many successful releases to come.