Australian soul singer Kylie Auldist is back with her fifth full-length album. The Melbourne-based singer, known especially for her role in The Bamboos and her huge 2009 song “This Girl”, remixed in 2016 and charting in a lot of European countries, has released her new album “This Is What Happiness Looks Like”, on Soul Bank Music, which is part of the !K7 label group, operating out of Berlin, London, and New York. After three releases on the brilliant Tru Thoughts label and one more on Freestyle Records, her new set is a wonderful trip back in time. And since I’m a child of the 80s, it is exactly something which caters to my ears.
Keys, synth bass, and drum programming are right out of the early 80s book. Needless to say that Kylie, described as the high priestess of Melbourne soul, offers nothing less than superb vocal performances throughout this 9-piece LP (yes, we’re using the vinyl for review). “Everythink”, the album opener, is a brightly grooving shuffle soul tune with a big amount of pop sensibilities re: composition. Kashif, Paul Laurence, and Morrie Brown meet Quincy Jones for “Stay In Front”, expertly produced by Warren Hunter and Lewis Moody, responsible for production work on the whole album. Kylie shows her rockier, Chaka side here. The most 80s-sounding cut, and my favorite too, is the midtempo Evelyn “Champagne” King/Melba Moore soundalike “Is It Fun?”, with its amazingly catchy hook. I can also hear some Nick Martinelli prod influences, including those inevitable handclaps.
After the unobtrusive pop ditty “All Mine”, we get another glimpse of the early to mid 80s, with the midtempo S.O.S. Band-influenced “Flow”. Loose Ends say hello, too. Side B (isn’t it great that we’re back in Side B age?) opens with yet another understated pop/soul tune, the breezy “LYB (Love You Better)”, reminding me of some of the early and best work of Lisa Stansfield. And is there some BB&Q Band/Jacques Fred Petrus behind “I Get It”? The album never really feels like a cheap copy of those golden early 80s sounds, but a lot of songs and groups and producers just pop up in my head while listening to it. Perfect for a private DJ night-out. Highly entertaining, diverting stuff continues with “Just Show Me”, offering a slight change in color with sax, flute, and trumpet chimed in.
What I like about Kylie’s voice is that even though hers is clearly a very big instrument, she never uses it excessively. There a rather some moments and instances where you can actually get a sense of her vocal prowess, like on “Just Show Me”, which was the first song written for this project. “Fly”, the album’s final track, sums up best the 80s aesthetic (even the cover art reflects the time) combined with ultra-soulful vocals. Will keep coming back to this one!