It’s a call that sets the tone for 43 minutes of rugged rock and tender, intimate folk tunes in a collection that showcases much more than the raw blues-rock roots this Sydney singer songwriter has become known for.
Get On and Paris are two tracks that suitably mark Smyth’s artistic diversity, the former a thunderously brash album kickoff channeling a stuttering Tom Waits drenched in dense guitar and a contagious caustic beat and the latter a classical blend of soft violins and gently crooning vocals that coax goosebumps and giddy shivers. Organ overlays are a feature on most tracks throughout and Smyth’s voice ranges from hair-raising bluesy howls to murmuring sweet nothings.
Lyrically, Exits is often themed by love and trust. Digital Heart speaks of “love lost in this digital time” while Written Or Spoken comments on things left unsaid between lovers. This last track in particular bares the versatility of Smyth’s awe-inspiring voice as it’s sensitive tenor alter-ego shines in the vain of a Jeff Buckley homage.
Smyth straddles the spectrum between ripping rock tunes and earnest ballads well however the second half of this album probably could have benefited from an interspersion of the rumbling energy in earlier, dancier, tracks. Songs like Desolation Point and South Land whilst beautiful in their own right do seem to blend together on a semi-attentive listen and this impression continues right through until Drovers, Sailors, Traders provides some raspy up-tempo relief.
Having said this, the final two tracks play beautifully off each other in a satisfying wrap up. Le Passant brings a touching lullaby that commands attention by the sheer subtlety of its quietly intoned murmurings and twinkling guitar. Then, as if to bid us farewell Reaperbahn kicks in vibrantly with Smyth’s signature bluesy vibes and charmingly gruff vocals to send us on our merry way.
Exits is an album that demands attention from anyone who’s merely heard of Steve Smyth on the grapevine and by all accounts he shouldn’t be missed live either.