Cameron Avery is by no means a new name to the Australian music scene, having spent the last few years performing with bands Tame Impala, POND and The Growl. Avery has cemented himself as a talented singer, songwriter and artist both on home soil and abroad. Avery’s debut album Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams, is an achingly personal anthology of songs and stories.
Currently residing in LA, it feels like a little of old Hollywood has crept onto Avery’s record. Heavily influenced by the old crooners of yesteryear - Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, Etta James - Avery delivers a hybrid of a performance; Part cocktail lounge, part living room and part studio. Ripe Dream, Pipe Dreams is a cinematic journey of one man's quest to find the meaning of life in the chaotic urban jungle and the price tag put on love. Throughout, he realizes just how fine the line is between having the right to dream and the unlikely hope of grasping the unattainable.
The opening line to “A Time and Place” has Avery contemplating on what could have been. Classical guitar strings strum, plaintively as Avery’s silky tenor lures in the listener. His performance is reminiscent of a jazz bar nightclub singer - the only thing missing was a whisky glass and a burning cigar. It’s stripped back, raw and honest. This feels like the end of our story just as it seems this tortured soul has come to his: “You and I have yet to realise our love will get us by.”
This, however is only the beginning as Avery uses a musical language to tell his story. As we travel through his melodic landscape we hit on many musical styles. “Dance with Me” with its raspy vocals, dirty guitar riffs and tango style drumming is a sensual hip-swaying encounter between two would-be lovers. “These lips ain’t just for talking, and these boots ain’t just for walking. Won’t you dance with me?” He sings.
“Wasted on Fidelity” is a portrait of a man conflicted with his own ideologies of what love is. After having been scorned, Avery tries to find a balance between love and lust, wanting the excitement and security without falling into the traps of “the sure things, the simple and the bored things.”
“My mindset at the time was that the only way I could provide happiness for myself is if I paid for it,” Avery explains. “The lyric says, ‘I gave myself to the sure things’; if I bought a beer, or a whiskey, or other such indulgences I got to consume them… But it’s kind of a dark mindset when you think about it: attempting to buy happiness.”
It’s a sophisticated number, layered with Avery’s husky baritone, sweeping orchestral strings and bluesy guitar lines combined with its poignant lyrics creates a song that plush with emotions.
With the album's core being bittersweet love songs about heartache and regret it’s no surprise that we find ourselves in country territory on “Disposable”. Muted guitar strings declare themselves like the clip-clop of horses' hooves, before this singing cowboy warns the women of the world “ well you can use me up and throw me out cause I wont keep and there’s no doubt”. Don’t be thinking this is some alcohol-infused self-loathing session; Avery has the knack to turn it around and embrace it like an anthem. He’s that lovable jerk 'cause he's upfront and he’s not promising you anything that he can’t deliver. Get attached at your own risk.
The highlight of the album is “Watch Me Take It Away." It’s a brazen, gritty tune that will leave you in a heated mess. A melting pot of rock, jazz and gospel, this tune is fuelled by erratic, breathy harmonica playing, distorted guitar riffs, tub thumping bass drums, heaven bound soul clapping and hoarse vocals get this sermon underway. If Avery hasn’t possessed your soul by now on the album then this tune will do it for you and you’ll gladly be up on your feet shaking his sound through your body.
“C’est Toi”is the bookend to our tale; it’s the learning curve. This is Avery’s love song and it’s where we see him as his most venerable and honest self. Written about the last time he fell in love, this ballad is charged with a painful sense of nostalgia.
Cameron Avery is a brilliant musician, singer and songwriter and has proven time and time again just the strengths this man can achieve. So, it's no surprise that Ripe, Dreams Pipe Dreams would be a winner. But aside from Avery's musical credentials, what sets this album apart from his previous body of work is that fact that this album is all him. There’s nowhere for Avery to hide and he makes no excuses for his flaws. Avery has the power to convey the dark aspects of life with humour, care and grace. The album itself has a timeless sound - it could have been written in the 1950’s or yesterday.
“I’m ripe to dream. But the pipe dream, the underlying theme of the album, if you really listen, is that all I really want is to have someone in my life and to be in love.”
Don’t worry Cameron; we love you.
Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams is out on CD and digital formats on Friday March 10th. Photo of Cameron Avery by Delilah Jesinkey.