Ziggy Alberts - Dancing In The Dark (Album Review)

Australian renaissance man Ziggy Alberts has been asserting his presence as a purveyor of earnest  music and the written word since 2011. His sixth album, "Dancing In The Dark", comes with an alluringly minimalist sound that is processed and slick but doesn't compromise its human touch. The ten songs here, often propelled by rhythmic anomalies (guitar harmonics, claps and snaps) and neat finger-picking, feel like looking into the diary of a spiritual person who believes the world is a good place. Of course, the world is terrible, but Alberts does a good job of convincing us otherwise. While by no means a religious album, there is an omnipresent positivity to the tunes built around faith that "everything will be ok". This approach works for Alberts' audience, who want to hear someone speak their truth directly and openly - warts and all.   

Though these songs are optimistic, in a way that may border on toxic positivity, they more often than not fall back to the familiar tropes of the anthemic sing-along, with generic lines like "I believe everything will be alright" on "I BELIEVE". On first listen, the accessible emotion of these folk-pop tunes might sound superficial. However, Alberts delicately wraps his candy in display-ready bows and ribbons, and thanks to bucketloads of sincerity and a proclivity for stylish folktronica, the tracks only sometimes come across as tacky. A music snob might scoff at the Spotify-playlist-ready nature of the slick and inoffensive music. However, there is musical wealth to be found, notably in the softness of "TATTOOS", featuring a harmonizing female vocal and atmospheric keys, or the lyrical relevance of "THE SUN & THE SEA", which candidly hints at a more expansive mood than the paint-by-number folk stylings of songs like "THE GREAT DIVIDE" and "I'M SORRY".  

When Alberts branches out lyrically, like on "CINNAMON DAZE" and the title track, the lovely melodies and moods are marred by politicizing. With their anti-lockdown sentiments ("Residents treated like prisoners"/ "How can we protest anything if we can't walk our front door?") and cynical high-school level observations ("Grandma's alone and the nurse ain't home but no visitors allowed, it's driving me crazy when you say it's good for the people somehow") Alberts seems less like an activist and more like the "old man yells at cloud" meme. It's unfortunate. With Alberts' more universal and spiritual messages, he paints himself as a saviour. However, without the indirect perspectives offered on "THE SUN & THE SEA", his political utterances come across as honest but self-righteous and capable of sending those with differing opinions for the skip button. So when "HALEY'S COMET" plays, it's relieving to return to the innocuous milquetoast of the "life is hard, but it will be ok" shtick. "REWIND" is a sexy closing track that talks of foreplay in the kitchen and offers some apolitically sound advice on escaping life's trauma: "make love and write poetry".

"Dancing In The Dark" is an unashamedly twee collection of honest and memorable songs that hits some bumps on its self-referential road, though the overall sweet messages are mostly vague enough to be easily digestible and innocently enjoyable.