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“Far Away Dreaming” by Amber Nicholson

When an artist has as much to get off of their chest as Amber Nicholson does in her new record Far Away Dreaming, it usually materializes in the form of an album of considerable length – especially when the music bears a conceptual likeness.

This isn’t true of Nicholson’s Far Away Dreaming, a simple record packaged inside of an EP, but I wouldn’t be quick to accuse her of rejecting the fundamentals of making surreal indie pop music. In 2023, a year that seems to support the experimentalism of just about every artist under the sun, you can cover a lot of ground across just five tracks without sounding like an underwhelming performer, and this player demonstrates that from the first few bars in this record to the stoic conclusion in “That I Believe.”

There’s been a lot of talk about the cerebral pop movement and a swelling interest in chamber music as it influences new hybrid genres in western culture, but when considering such discussions under the umbrella of this musician’s aesthetical experimentation, there’s no comparing the depth of Far Away Dreaming to another release currently out. This is something from the soul of its creator, and it captures life as she truly sees it for herself.  

Blushing instrumental hooks in “Oh (Where Are You)” and “My Silence” stick out like sore thumbs in this tracklist, but I wouldn’t say that either song sounds like it doesn’t belong in this record. There’s nothing here that doesn’t fit in like a jigsaw puzzle piece, with Amber Nicholson going as far as to play everything in a concept construct, only reinforcing the continuity of the music even more.

Pure tension pushes “That I Believe” and “Far Far Far” out of the speakers and into our laps, but I don’t think they qualify as smothering in comparison to the other songs thanks to the pristinely evenhanded mixing of every track here. Nicholson is using every inch of space that she can sink her melodies into in this EP, and though she straddles a fine line between surreal pop and a more avant-garde look than some of her fans might be prepared for, the ultimate result is one that she should be very proud of.  

It might be a bit early to call Far Away Dreaming one of the best records you’re going to hear all year long, but I can say irrefutably that it’s the most communicative extended play I’ve listened to in the last three months. As a singer, this artist already has so much going for her that she doesn’t even have to be that poetic with her words to make a big splash on both sides of the dial, but she’s not interested in being another pretty voice on the radio.

She’s emotive on another level, and despite being fully aware of what she could do with a simpler strain of pop music, she’s pressing forward with something ambitious, conceptual, and undisputedly more engaging than most anything her immediate peers in the underground can put out at the moment. This is an artist who will only get better, and Far Away Dreaming makes that abundantly clear.  

Mindy McCall



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