As Rabbit Island, Australian songwriter Amber Fresh puts a delicate, celestial spin on slow-burn balladry. Her latest album, Deep in the Big, has the poignancy of a lullaby, right down to Fresh’s softly-murmured vocals.
But just because its pace may be unhurried doesn’t mean its reach isn’t vast. Fresh’s piano playing ranges from sparse and tentative, as on lead single “Deep in the Big,” to rippling and expansive, as on “Boxing Day.” Other tracks introduce sleepy organ, while the closing “Jonah’s Dream” shelves keyboard instruments altogether to hang on folky acoustic guitar. A few guests from Fresh’s hometown of Perth show up along the way, including Pond frontman Nicholas Allbrook, who contributes guitar and vocals.
The lyrics aren’t always clear, but Fresh takes a devastating, sigh-like approach to every track that pulls the heartstrings, even when the meaning is left vague. The wistful “Interstate,” which recalls the aching, piano-centered tracks of Cat Power’s You Are Free, sets Fresh’s voice at a wavering remove without sacrificing emotional resonance. “Zigrid” brings her voice much closer, layering it over rustling percussion and playful effects, while the nearly nine-minute “11, 12, 13” similarly gives the impression of her being right next to us, whispering like a trusted confidant.
Such painstaking intimacy is what sets Rabbit Island apart in the realm of low-key indie pop. Fresh recorded the album back in 2015, but she has spent the intervening years perfecting its artwork, sequencing, and other small details. That revelation only adds to the unmistakable feeling that Deep in the Big is something precious and handmade, glimmering with little secrets.