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Dizzy Heights is Neil Finn’s first solo album in 13 years. With his other creative outlets — including 7 Worlds Collide and Pajama Club — fairly active over the last decade, one can assume Finn wouldn’t need to bother making an album under his own name unless he had some new ideas to play around with.
So, rather than trying to write widely accessible pop songs a la Crowded House, here Finn is challenging himself as a songwriter, incorporating snippets of his favourite styles and genres into his traditional simple melodies, and playing with production to create a new bed for his tunes to nestle into.
Dizzy Heights was co-produced by Dave Fridmann, a long-time Flaming Lips associate who also worked on both of Tame Impala’s albums, and he’s brought his thick, sun-drenched sound with him. There’s plenty of ’60s weirdness to be found here. Post-acid Beatles echo throughout, with a dash of the Kinks in tracks like In My Blood. Finn even sings like Dylan on the raw, melancholy love song Lights of New York.
Tellingly, this album is trippier than we’ve come to expect from the gentle singer-songwriter, right from the first twang. Fragile tendrils of electric guitar wander under the meditative vocals of Impressions. Pony Ride is interrupted by discordant chord splashes and haywire guitar. White Lies and Alibis is spacey and futuristic, opening with over a minute of minimal, scratchy noises before expanding into a series of dramatic flourishes.
The record’s lyrics are both introspective and grand, the musings of someone with a heaping of life experience who always seems to have more than his fair share of wisdom. While Finn’s familiar voice is ingrained into the Australian consciousness, the careful musical layering and textures do more work here than the lyrical material or his timbre, despite some aspirational falsetto.
Along with Fridmann, Finn’s other main collaborators on the album are his own family, cementing the notion that this is a truly personal record. His wife and Pajama Club co-conspirator Sharon co-wrote several of the songs and plays bass, with their sons Liam and Elroy on drums and guitar respectively.
Dizzy Heights does nothing to dispel Finn’s reputation as a “songwriter’s songwriter”. It’s a complicated album, with plenty of little pleasures, but it’s unlikely to capture the attention of everyone. There are few radio-friendly choruses, little that could easily be chanted in a live setting.
Its subtleties and oddities are undeniably delightful, though, slipping in amongst typically solid pop-rock bedrock. For Finn fans, and those who like their guitar pop served with off-centre flair, this is a rewarding listen.