Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders
Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders latest sleek offering comes via Susan, and the track helps to cement Jack Ladder as one of Australia’s great (if underappreciated) songwriters.
The song, his first since 2014’s Playmates, features Ladder’s velvety croon lingering over dazed discotheque synth and electronic drumming. It makes for a unique experience that combines cheesy electro dance with highbrow love balladry. The song builds nicely through the chorus transforming into a fully blown up-tempo groove and singalong complete with female harmonies that instantly transports you to a dance hall in the 80s.
The song is an upbeat turn for the singer whose previous albums Hurtsville and Playmate were packed with sweeping, slow-paced, introverted ballads. With Susan, Ladder has gone in a more sparse, dreamy direction and whilst his lyrics are written in third person, they are as poignant as ever, with the likes of the simple, but well placed, opening line; “Susan roams the hall, while golden red leaves fall/ She dreams she runs through the autumn sun”.
Ladder has often made public declarations of his love for Leonard Cohen, and Susan seems to include a few nods to the great man. Firstly, the title of the track is similar to that of Cohen’s well-known song Suzanne. The song talks about love and loss – two of Cohen’s favourite subjects. Ladder also quips “dancing cheek to cheek”, which is a line from Cohen’s song A Thousand Kisses Deep. You also can’t go past the fact that Ladder’s baritone voice is similar to that of Cohen’s, as is his apparent love of love, poetry and storytelling.
Executing a modern, loveable nod to Cohen is no easy feat, but Ladder does it with ease thanks to his resonant and luxurious delivery, perfectly placed expressions and a quirky flair. And whilst the disco direction is a common one these days for indie artists, Ladder does it well and makes for a song that feels both nostalgic and also innovative in true post punk tradition.