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MAN SANDAL Chess Club gets 8.5/10

Man Sandal

Chess Club
Rockton Records


Much like wearing socks with sandals, indie-folk suit Man Sandal make a statement with their latest offering, a full-length album titled Chess Club. The Perth group consist of five up-and-coming talents, raised in the rich local music community: Georgia Siciliano, Clancy Davidson, Julia Wallace, David Stewart, and Lochie Howitt. With a string of successful releases under their belt including nominations for the 2017 and 2020 WAM Song of the Year, Man Sandal write clever and lush stories about growing up, everyday life, and all the struggles that come with it. Chess Club is no exception, plating up themes of loss, pollution, and your own mortality in a way more polished than ever, with plenty of textured strings and rounded brass as garnish.

Earlier in the year saw the release of track three Adulthood, an upbeat swirl of fun brass sounds and playful percussions, and track six Can’t Mean Much (which you can check out the full review of here). The two singles gave a great taste of what was to come with the album and performed well receiving some airplay on the triple j airwaves, and on local institution RTRFM 92.1.

Chess Club consist of ten songs, which tip-toe past like a gentle breeze making forty minutes feel like a fleeting moment. Each track is diverse enough from the next to keep you fully engaged, but similar enough in the instrumentation and styling to fit together as a cohesive unit. A standout overall, is the variety of vocalists in this band. Clancy singing lead for tracks 1, 4 and 8, Julia for 5 and 7, Georgia for 2, 6 and 10, and David for 1, 3 and 9, plus plenty of delightfully layered harmonies from everyone amongst it all.

Each vocalist brings a different tone and texture to the pallet which overall makes the album interesting to listen to and gives the feeling of multiple stories from different perspectives, backed by solid folk, jazz, and pop sounds. The stories themselves are well crafted, believable, and relatable. Who hasn’t not seen their dad in over a month, despite him only living a short car ride away? And the conviction of the narrative makes you believe every line, and keeps you completely engrossed.

Can’t Mean Much is a standout, wriggling into your ears like a sad little earworm that has you clinging onto every line Georgia Siciliano shares, and screaming along to “it can’t mean that much to you” by the final chorus. The playful nature but grim subject of Everybody Dies is another highlight, the deceitful fun melodies and uplifting keys and guitar juxtaposing the lyrical narrative of an existential realisation that you and everyone around you will die (eventually).

Chess Club is an album of interesting, believable, and engaging stories that are modestly self-proclaimed as “vulnerable and honest.” Paired incredibly like a nice cheese with a top-shelf wine, the five-piece demonstrate that they are not just a pretty voice but can create incredible indie-folk sounds that demonstrate jazz and pop elements. Man Sandal packed both socks and sandals with this release, creating a body of work that you’ll want to listen back to again and again.


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