Listen to Heaven, a hauntingly beautiful return from Melbourne's Grace Cummings
Two years following her critically acclaimed debut, one of Australia's most remarkable musicians returns with a new album out next year.
While not everyone in Australia may recognise the name, Melbourne-based musician Grace Cummings is amongst the upper echelon of Australian songwriting. In 2019, she went viral for a Bob Dylan cover that later attracted the attention of King Gizzard's Flightless Records, who signed Cummings to their label for her inaugural album Refuge Cove in late-2019. "We were completely blown away by a Grace Cummings performance a few months ago that we asked if she’d be keen to put out a record with Flightless this year," the label wrote, announcing the signing.
Refuge Cove was a debut collection of beautiful, often-subtle indie-folk that saw her placed on everything from Pitchfork's home page to homegrown festival lineups, bolstered by her enchanting songwriting and her ability to draw out the power in music's most stripped-back and delicate sounds. It was a defining moment for Grace Cummings, a stark introduction that elevated her to one of Australia's most gifted songwriters - and one quickly basking in the internationally spanning glory of being so.
Now, two years later, we reconvene as she announces her second album Storm Queen, scheduled for release on January 14th 2022 via ATO Records / Virgin Music. It's an album that's bound to reinforce the talent introduced on her debut, albeit going a step further; Storm Queen being a record almost entirely led solely by her vocals, as she carves out potent, yet intimate power within musical minimalism.
It's something that sounds unlike anything else we've heard, judging from the album's first taste in Heaven. The single is a re-introduction and solidification of Grace Cummings' craft, signalling a sense of internal and musical growth and experimentations her vocals powerfully navigate a washed-out and beautiful instrumentation; layers of intricate production details swirling amongst the richness of her powerful vocal, and the raw lyricism that underlays each of her verses.
"I wrote Heaven in just about the same time it takes to sing," she says. "I heard that you’d always know who the hero was in an old cowboy movie because they’d be wearing a ten-gallon Stetson. Heaven might be a person… or a place… or my father or a tiny little caterpillar or the sound of a Kookaburra laughing. The kookaburra is a hero. I am not."
As she continues to introduce the January-arriving Storm Queen, you get the sense that it's an album more established in Grace Cummings' craft, as she blooms from the lessons and learnings gained from her debut. "In the past there were times when I’ve let other people’s opinions affect me too much," she says. "But with this record I learned that I’m allowed to influence myself instead of taking in anyone else’s ideas. I learned to completely trust what I see and hear in my head, and I stuck with that and just focused on creating what I love the most: something real and raw and ugly and beautiful."
Heaven is a remarkable example of that, and you can take a listen to it below, and pre-order Storm Queen here.