Abbe May – Fruit
You wouldn’t have expected an album like Fruit from Abbe May half a decade ago. Back then, the sound of the perennial Perth favourite was evolving rapidly, but this wasn’t exactly where we’d suspected she’d end up landing.
Fruit sees May dive headfirst into sleek modern soul. She’s always had soul, but only flirted with a full embracement of the genre in the past. Her 2013 record Kiss My Apocalypse drew her away from her rock roots, but felt more like a twisted take on pop rather than an unabashed embracement of one of the oldest and most beloved of genres.
The sound suits her, though. It’s such a perfect fit that listening to Fruit makes you wonder why she didn’t take this step earlier.
You can sense the influence from across the gamut of funk and soul, both modern and vintage.
‘Love Decline’ is a pop-soul/reggae hybrid that lands somewhere between a weirder Joe Cocker and a straighter Grace Jones.
‘Make Love Not Sense’ and ‘I’m Over You’ have shades of Sharon Jones, while 'Like Me Like I Like You' and ‘Are We Flirting’ flirt with Prince’s sparser moments.
‘Tinderella’ brings a 90s R&B sensibility to the table, and closing track ‘Freedom’ is a lengthy acoustic soul jam that channels so many of the great female singer-songwriters of the ‘90s.
Three interstitial confessionals pepper the record and lend it great power. Abbe May has been open about this record being her first after coming out, and these short, oblique moments add plenty to that narrative.
She speaks of ‘private shame’ she felt through her life, presumably about her sexuality, before ‘Seventeen’ reveals intimate details of her life in love.
It also is an album of great reckoning. ‘Doomsday Clock’ talks about environmental destruction and the injustices of so many parts of modern society.
‘We may never know how equally unimportant and impactful we are,’ a gospel chorus sings through the song.
Fruit is a sleek take on modern soul that pushes Abbe May’s sound another step further. We won’t go so far as to say she’s found her ultimate sound, as one of May’s greatest gifts is her versatility. But this sure does sound like it could be her at her best.