'Misery Peaks' is the third full-length album by Australian artist Jason Sweeney, and what an aptly named recording it is. If you read my review of Sweeney's 2019 album, 'Human, Insignificant' you might have some idea of what to expect. While the musical backing on that album was primarily piano-based, Sweeney takes a different tack on 'Misery Peaks'; one that is both more oblique and more bleak.
The first track, "To the Lake" uses ominous drones as its primary musical backing. Sweeney relates a strange sort of abstract tale - "Took his car and I drove to the lakeside...never thought he'd come back....he was still on my mind...trying my best...and I'm trying too hard...trying my best...am I trying too hard...stays long enough for me to take him home, to know I was falling in love...and he says, leave me here by the lake..." This kind of abstract expressionism is certainly open to interpretation, but I get the impression everything is not hunky-dory in relationshipville.
Things are no more cheery on "Kid" which has a slow rhythm track (and more drones) while Sweeney wails between song lyrics. There are some nice key changes on this one and it does have an industrial ambient vibe. I am now realizing who Sweeney sounds like vocally on this album - David Sylvian, albeit a very depressed, morose Sylvian. Actually, that's a compliment as I really like Sylvian's voice. "Please Accept My Love" really brings that to the fore to. There's a delicateness and fragility Sweeney's songs too, and it really comes through on a track like "Stolen Bones".
Accompaniment throughout the album is generally minimal, but highly effective. There are noisy, industrial moments too, such as on "Sun" which is an atypical for the first third, but settles into the groove for the rest. 'Misery Peaks' does have a Scott Walker circa ‘Tilt’ vibe to it, and it would be nearly impossible to like this album if you don’t like that one. Sweeney returns to simple piano backing for the final track, “Sometimes the Rain Falls,” a plaintive ballad, and his strongest vocal performance over all on the album. Sweeney might be an acquired taste for most, but rewarding for those who do. Better than ‘Human, Insignificant’ in a multitude of ways. Typical Sound in Silence custom packaging, limited to 200 copies.