Josh Pyke: But For All These Shrinking Hearts

Scott Wallace
28th Jul 2015

Josh Pyke’s latest album almost seems to congeal into existence. Out of a bass drone and a restless synth line emerges “Book of Revelations,” one of the finest pieces of pop that Pyke has released in years.

But For All These Shrinking Hearts seems like a slight step back from where Pyke was when we last heard from him. His 2012 album The Beginning and the End of Everything was a far more extroverted record in the folk-rock vein, but the follow-up is something more delicate and intimate.

One gets a sense of fiddling from these songs, and Pyke himself has said that his songwriting process is one of noodling and experimenting until songs emerge. That we get a clear sense of this on But For All These Shrinking Hearts makes it a very approachable record. With Pyke’s gentle vocals and the crystalline textures of many of the songs, it feels as if the listener is being invited in to listen.

Pyke’s pop sensibility is not dulled, even if his arrangements are peppered with embellishments like the lovely chimes and strings on the autumnal “Songlines” or the percolating synth on the achingly spare “There’s a Line.” The choruses hit with as much power as ever, but they’re tempered with a sense of dynamics and restraint that makes them shine all the brighter.

In discussing the album, Pyke said that a rather negative outlook on the state of the world has influenced his songwriting of late. He’s not one to dwell on doom and gloom though, and these songs maintain a subtle balance of longing and hope. The upbeat “Hollering Hearts” is following by the overcast “Still Some Big Deal,” which reads like an existential love song.

In the record’s quieter moments there is a sense of darkness and isolation. On “Late Night Driving,” a string section bursts forth and recedes like glimpses of a landscape momentarily captured in car headlights. Moments like this show a maturity that proves that Pyke has moved beyond the sentimental folkie label and is now a very able crafter of pop.

Not every song is absolutely killer, but at its worst But For All These Shrinking Hearts is merely pleasant. If given time and attention, these lovely compositions reveal a lyrical and compositional complexity that is very refreshing. It’s a well-made and honest record, managing to be both cohesive and varied at once.

Closer “Someone to Rust With” strips back all the embellishments and finds Pyke singing with just some lovely guitar arpeggios and a resonant acoustic bass. This novel and unique take on a devotional ballad shows Pyke’s unwillingness to settle for clichés or platitudes, and that’s precisely what Australian music needs right now.

But For All These Shrinking Hearts is out Friday July 31. Fans who pre-order the album from his website can also purchase tickets to see Josh Pyke perform at The Soda Factory on Wednesday July 29.