In 2012 Thelma Plum burst onto the scene when ‘Father Said’ uploaded to Triple J Unearthed and received some serious airtime on main station Triple J. A handfull of singles followed in later years, including the absolute gem ‘How Much Does You Love Cost’. It dropped in at number 95 in the 2014 Hottest 100 – a great 100 with Amity Affliction getting three in and Chet Faker with the number 1. It’s pretty crazy to think that this is Thelma Plum’s debut album seven years, two hottest 100 entries and two hottest 100 features after Father Said.
Better in Blak captures the honest indie pop vibe that Thelma Plum has really made her own – some tongue in cheek reflective songs. Notability on the standout track ‘Not Angry Anymore’ struggling with growing up as an Aboriginal Woman in Australia. Her sweeping vocals supported by some poppy guitar work make for a catchy song that has a deeper message if you listen that bit closer.
The title song ‘Better in Blak’ gives even closer insight into some of the struggles that women face and shows her strength as an Aboriginal woman with the key line “I look better in black” from the chorus. When discussing the lyrics, Thelma stated that “I wrote it about my experiences with people trying to take the colour from the conversation. My colour is an important part of who I am”, supported on the track with some haunting backing vocals. It is that music that you want to hear when staring out a window on the train, giving you an opportunity for self reflection and leaving you feeling properly empowered. Like something has been taken from you as well, which really demonstrates how she connects with the audience in her lyrics and that sweeping vocal.
A favourite track of mine, ‘Woke Blokes’, is a synth dreamscape treat that again delivers a message, this time of people not putting into practice what they preach. You say you’re woke, but you don’t act like it, is the message that comes across. Taking a stab at the posers out there, “he does yoga in the morning and coke all afternoon”. It approaches it in a somewhat playful feel but with a tone that says she (and the rest of us) are just sick of it. Just the first two lines of the first verse draw you in and set the tone.
The opening track of the album, ‘Clumsy Love’ (#79 in the 2018 Hottest 100) is a fast paced poppy jam that has been hugely popular since released as a single last year. I remember when it came on at the BMG Hottest 100 party, that it was the perfect vibe at the time (as I dropped my sandwich). But a great way to open the record.
The 8th track on the record – ‘Nick Cave’, a softer acoustic song, shows a bit more range in Thelma. Parts of the song are crazy relatable – the song itself seemingly about relationships and their difficulties, affairs, crushes, and being honest in relationships. But the way that the song just ends really hits. Give it a listen.
The record sees contributions from the legendary and BMG favourite Paul Kelly. As well as crowd favourite Dave Le’Aupepe from Gang of Youths (features on Love and War). Although not one of my favourite songs on the record, you can’t deny that their vocals pair really well together.
Sir Paul McCartney wrote some of the guitar parts for the closing track ‘Made For You’. F*cking Sir Paul McCartney, and it is beautiful. An excellent way to close out a pretty powerful album.
Definitely give this one a listen. Tracks to add to your playlists – Better in Blak, Not Angry Anymore, Woke Blokes and Made for You.
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