The vibrancy of Tales from the Backseat, The Academic’s 2018 debut album, lives on. Where most would feel dispirited by teen lovesickness, the album found motivation, affording tempo and coolness that bridges toward follow-up Sitting Pretty with friendly amendment and architectural melody.
The album’s framework – an edifice in its own right – stuffs its face with crackling guitars and bullhorn synths, keen to get you up in the morning. Amid this illustrious bulk lives The Academic’s most envied commodity of all; ecstatic melody, a happy parapet beside the edifice. Melody derives from modern Britpop-ish – or Brit-ish-pop – study. The Academic don’t just learn from Circa Waves and DMA’s, they challenge them. The melodist’s 2023 album is The Academic’s; a tell-all long list of bulging earworms that tops out with the hazily-brained vibratos of Buying Smokes.
Resembling Rivers Cuomo on What’s Wrong With Me, singer Craig Fitzgerald’s voice contains a buoyancy that supplies melody by default, despite the rapidity of his words on the track in question. Its vivacity, comprising the tearful quivers of a traditional pop singer, holds up no matter the pacing, whether the plashing gearstick shifts of Don’t Take It Personally – dipping into each syllable of the word “personally”, not a hair out of place – or the pre-chorus of This Is Your Life, patterning four descending notes that move like a slinky treading downstairs.
Fitzgerald harmonises with the enormity of The Academic’s instrumentation, the spiralling chords that occupy the chorus of Pushing Up Daisies, straining and emoting in a hunt for resolution, undoubting despite the doubt of its lyrics. As the organs of Let Go Of My Heart spill their guts, so does Craig; as he calls out on Heartbreak’s Where It’s At, synthesisers respond.
Even amid lighter touches – the minimalism of Rain Keeps Falling, an unbuffed drum machine loop and subtler musicianship sans bombast – he sings like there is a gun to his head, and the next inauthentic vocal will mean his doom. The loverboy swoons of Step My Way divorce themselves from linearity, breathing the occasional bass note whilst swapping old melodies for new, all in one blossoming verse. The articulations of Do What You Want mould themselves effortlessly, satisfyingly.
A harmony of whispers enters into Homesick, breathing toward an audience in need of good will, before its latter, “I’m waking up” sonance sweats with echo whilst sliding from note to note.
These melodies are much bigger than you think, much like The Academic themselves, who have performed alongside Noel Gallagher and The Rolling Stones. They improve on the frenzies of Tales from the Backseat, faithful to the debut with a stronger kick and reflective tempo. On Sitting Pretty, melody is academic.