Those who want to make it big in pop music these days have no choice but to go big or go home, and ironically enough it’s a simple EP from singer Amber Nicholson casting the largest shadow over the indie pop genre this late winter season. Nicholson’s Far Away Dreaming is a searing progressive pop effort that doesn’t mince words or melodies when it comes to presenting us with themes equally dark and light the same, and while it represents a much more mature look from its developer than her peers have been producing, I have to say it’s not coming a moment too soon.
This scene has been coming into its own for a while now, but it wasn’t until I sat down with the opening cut of this EP that I realized how much Nicholson is eclipsing a lot of her competition even as a rookie. While the underground is arguably the hottest pop scene in the world right now, the local indie circuit has been pushing a lot of intriguing experimentalism along the lines of Far Away Dreaming for a good minute, and this is somehow meeting the two realms right in the middle through a series of grooves and harmonies that seem to capture the essence of both and neither at the same time.
Nicholson’s self-awareness was what initially got me turned on to her music, and I like how it’s influencing the structure of this record. Rather than playing through the progressive showmanship we’ve been hearing ever since her forerunners changed the genre forever back in the 2010s, the cosmetically mismatched “Oh (Where Are You),” “That I Believe,” and “Far Far Far” fit together rigidly and without reason, nonetheless supporting consistency in these lyrics and the overall aesthetical direction that left me quite enamored as both a critic and a fan of good music.
You can’t get around the existentialism of “That I Believe” and the lyrical protagonist from which the song takes its name, but I have to note that at no point does Amber Nicholson overindulge in this theme. She seems intent on staying efficient in spots where a lot of others would have gone crazy with theatrics, and this is another area where she sets herself apart from the many pop songwriters who are more or less trying to produce something just like Far Away Dreaming. This is a good example of what to do, but not necessarily something I can envision anyone replicating with success.
Far Away Dreaming is, in a single word, rousing. It’s at times hard to conceptualize and lives up to its title from a uniquely introspective point of view, but above all else, I think it’s required listening for anyone who has discriminating taste in indie pop. This is just too complete a venture to be ignored, and judging from the buzz it’s helping to generate around Amber Nicholson’s brand and discography, I feel like it’s going to get her the accolades from the press and critics that she’s been hunting down since the release of her first single (which is included here on the record).