Abbe May – Design Desire

Design Desire, the third album from Australian singer/songwriter Abbe May, isn’t the kind of record that politely asks to played. In fact, so immediate and exhilarating is the guitar-driven opening title-track, that it kicks your front door in, chases you up the stairs and throws you against the wall before the seductive vocal gets you all hot under the collar. It’s a fine start and one which is representative of the gutsy blues-rock to follow.

Next, Universes sees layered vocals atop a mesmerising groove and howling guitars before the chorus of Mammalion Locomotion intersperses a chunky, White Stripes-style chorus with verses led by May’s ever-sultry voice. Meanwhile, the short and snappy Taurus Chorus combines blues with post-grunge references. Nods to Polly Harvey in You Could be Mine and Patti Smith in Cast That Devil Out sandwich a well-timed change of pace in the form of the woozy No Sleep Tonight, in which May – to continue the iconic female comparisons – goes all Beth Gibbons on us. Further proof that she isn’t all about huge, scaling riffs and reverb-laden vocals comes from the sparse, dark and rather beautiful Blood River.

It’s perhaps something of a shame though, that things never really regain pace after this. For instance, as the record draws to a close, Carolina – at six minutes long – could have been an epic denouement, but rather meanders towards the finish line. Still, this is merely a minor grumble. By the time Design Desire runs slightly out of stream, Abbe May has already displayed enough diversity – from primal blues to pared back ballads via some smoky Portishead ethereality – to genuinely impress. Expect to be hearing a whole lot more from from this lady in the future, and if she is ever wielding a guitar on a stage near you, then you’d be a goddamn idiot to miss it.

Have a listen to the album’s title track here.

Review by Bobby Townsend.
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