Australian singer-songwriter Indigo Sparke started her second album from a place of intensity during the pandemic. "I was moving through huge waves of grief … (that) opened a doorway to the past I thought I had made peace with. But there were days where I just couldn't get off the floor … it was almost like my life was flashing before my eyes," she has said. "All the varied different chapters I had experienced, from heavy drug use, to sexual abuse, love in all its forms, complex trauma and mental health." Oof. And yet, Hysteria is entrancing, inspiring; mournful, at times, but also curious and adventurous.
Indigo Sparke - Blue (Official Video)IndigoSparkeVEVO
Opener "Blue" sets a harrowing scene: "Father … took out the wooden spoon and hit us real hard/ Go to your room and don't you dare cry" and "Held your grandfather's hand as he died/ Wrinkled with his ancient lies." It is absolutely gothic folk. But there are also uplifting moments like on "God is a Woman's Name," Sparke's voice swooping and darting like a bird and singing "Pra-a-a-a-a-y!" like it's a cry of ascension. "Hysteria" takes that word, practically a slur against women (thanks, Hippocrates), and makes it sound like being out of control is rapturous rather than insane. "Hysteria, I cannot feel my hands … you're telling me to breathe… Hysteria, don't let go … come to me," Sparke sings, as crystalline as a young Joni Mitchell. "This song is about being inside of love, right at the edge of hysteria," Sparke has said. "There is often an axis point in things. A place where things can tip into chaos or become unhinged."
Indigo Sparke - Hysteria (Official Video)IndigoSparkeVEVO
Producer Aaron Dessner of the National has, as he's done with Sharon Van Etten and Taylor Swift, teased out a slightly different yet highly complex side of Sparke's songs. She has an Alanis Morissette moment on "Pressure in My Chest," the title repeated over and over like a growing bubble dangerously close to bursting, and gets dusky for the brooding "Infinity Honey." Named fafter the Duke Ellington song "Mood Indigo," Sparke lives up to it with a torchy delivery on "Pluto," her words floating in mid-air for a few seconds before fading amidst the atmospheric music. "Golden Ribbons" bears a bit of Ren Faire mystery ("Rainbows and everything is free/ Falling, falling"), and Sparke chimes sweetly on the shuffling "Why Do You Lie?."