For the first music video of her new era – the seductive pop gem ‘Dark Parts’ – Megan Washington opted for a career retrospective of sorts. The clip is peppered with snippets of old music videos and live performances, a short and sweet recap of her trajectory from a guest performer on Australian TV to one of our best indie-pop acts. Her debut album, ‘I Believe You Liar’, was released a decade ago; it makes sense that the Brisbane singer would want to reflect on how she’s progressed.
With her origin story in mind, Washington’s latest full-length release, ‘Batflowers’, introduces a promising new chapter for the artist which long-time fans shouldn’t immediately fear: it ties together the trademarks of her back catalogue with new, exciting risks that she’s effortlessly pulled off.
Kicking off with a welcoming title track, ‘Batflowers’ invites us into a sound immediately fuller than Washington’s previous LPs. The songwriting itself showcases the same whimsical singer but with cultural talking points that only the past few years could provide – anyone here a “Disney rising” star sign?
The guitar, front and centre in past tracks like ‘Heart Is A Wheel’ and ‘Cement’, steps out of the spotlight, ceding space to drum machines and pulsing synths. It’s not all out of left-field though: ‘Catherine Wheel’, which Washington has played at past gigs, ushers us back to the solo piano stylings of her early days (think Disc Two of ‘I Believe You Liar’). ‘Lazarus Drug’ is the perfect blend of the old and the new, ending a sci-fi synth break with a piano-led ode, where she grandly sings: “You’re everything where everyone who is or ever was, forever”.
Washington’s last album, ‘There There’, could be cold and mournful at times. While this mood is still present in tracks like ‘Not A Machine’, the overall production of ‘Batflowers’ – with contributions from John Congleton, Japanese Wallpaper’s Gab Strum and Dave Hammer, all handpicked by Washington – surrounds the listener with warmth, bringing them in and keeping them close for the next 50 minutes. The upbeat tracks – ‘Dark Parts’, ‘Achilles Heart’ and ‘Switches’, all album highlights – are strategically stationed throughout the tracklist, keeping a driving momentum among the ebbs and lows.
The Norah Jones-inspired number ‘Kiss Me Like We’re Gonna Die’ rounds out the record, reminding listeners of Washington’s past life as a jazz singer. It’s also a closing flourish that demonstrates her versatility, swinging easily between songs for the cosiest cabaret lounges and the grandest concert halls.
Ultimately, that’s where Washington’s strengths lie. ‘Batflowers’ doesn’t stick to one style or form, nor should it, in order to truly showcase her talent. The constant themes of love, vulnerability and the occasional heartbreak echo through her catalogue, but how she chooses to present them each time is what deserves attention and praise.
Recorded under makeshift conditions, ‘I Believe You Liar’ was a safe jumping-off point for Washington, one that introduced us to a rising star with a pixie cut and thick-rimmed frames. 2014’s ‘There There’ raised the stakes with songs about failed engagements and held grudges. Now, with ‘Batflowers’, Washington has shown how much an artist can mature and grow over six years, offering up a record that is as stylistically complex as it is worth the wait.
- Release date: August 28
- Record label: Island Records