Before beginning her recording career, moody Australian singer/songwriter Angie McMahon fell rather suddenly into a massive amount of exposure when at age 19, she won a talent contest earning her an opening slot on Bon Jovi's 2013 stadium tour of her country. Although she possessed enough soulful vocal power to fill such big venues, the Melbourne native's craft was still relatively unformed, and rather than trying to parley the experience into a hastily built pop career, she wisely spent the next several years honing her songs away from the spotlight. When she returned in 2017 with the gritty, low-key earworm "Slow Mover," it marked a more assured debut and fans quickly took notice. Additional buzz-worthy singles like "Keeping Time" and "Missing Me" expanded on McMahon's bluesy brand of indie rock, which relies heavily on loud/quiet dynamics to deliver her shredded cathartic missives and hushed confessions. Those three songs plus eight similarly toned additions make up her full-length debut, Salt, which appears via the Nashville-based label Dualtone. On it, McMahon opens the door to her vulnerable inner world, sharing her thoughts, fears, desires, and regrets over a bed of overdriven electric guitar that oscillates between distant, lonesome strumming and growling riffs. The album's production is appropriately raw, mirroring the angsty material and foregoing any real studio polish to reveal what is essentially a fairly straightforward rock combo playing live in a big room. The aforementioned singles represent Salt's most up-tempo cuts, with "Keeping Time" in particular standing out for its confident channeling of husky-voiced forebears like Chrissie Hynde and PJ Harvey. The remainder of the album is largely given over to emotive slow-building tracks that require a bit more patience. "And I Am a Woman" offers a gutsy examination of equality and the legitimacy of long-held societal norms in regard to women. Elsewhere, the sad country warmth of "Play the Game" and the starkly fingerpicked front half of "Soon" are soothing in their implied heartache, inviting listeners to lean in and try to untangle McMahon's lyrics through her downcast mumbling. Sadly, those same mumbled vocals sometimes become a hindrance during the slower sections of the album, distracting from the otherwise well-written songs. Still, delivery affectations aside, Salt serves as a solid introduction to this sensitive and engaging artist.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger