Alternative pop doesn’t often go very deep, but when it does, we wind up with era-shaping music that has a staying power as strong as it gets. Amber Nicholson wants to take the indie pop sound in a slightly different direction with the release of her debut EP Far Away Dreaming in 2023, but it isn’t one that should leave the genre’s long-term supporters concerned; instead, Far Away Dreaming is an evolved form of what this sound has always been made of. Nicholson attacks the modern pop record with reverence and resilience as a lyricist that I wasn’t sure existed in any form of alternative music anymore, presenting songs like “That I Believe” with the kind of lust for artistic cohesion that I desire to hear a lot more of both from her and her peers.
The mixture of linguistics and different poetic styles contained within “Far Far Far” and the previously noted “That I Believe” could have been too much for some players to juggle, but it proves to be no such challenge for Nicholson. Rather than her more ambitious looks showing us what kind of music she wants to make in the studio, I think they’re more telling of her depth as a creative, indicating what kind of cosmetics and substance she can produce when left to define something with little more than organic instrumentation and a beautiful lead vocal. She doesn’t need much help to sound incredible, and although this wasn’t being debated beforehand, it’s all the more solidified as truth here.
Tonality never wounds up being sacrificed in the name of complex compositions in Far Away Dreaming, and I would even say that “Oh (Where Are You)” is rocking some of the best instrumental tones I’ve heard in an off-label performance to date. Nicholson is highlighting the importance of detail to her in this tracklist, and where some critics might think that she’s being a little over-the-top with her intricate presentation of emotions and commentarial thoughts the same, I find it to be exciting and a much-needed jettison away from the model her contemporaries have been exploiting to death in this first act of 2023. Some might be content to follow the leader, but this player is telling us that she isn’t one of the masses.
If you haven’t been listening to Amber Nicholson since she dropped this record just last month, I recommend getting into Far Away Dreaming this March. This is quite different than where her influences started out, aesthetically speaking at least, but I believe it to be much more representative of her true personality as it stands when there isn’t anything or anyone to stop her from being herself. This just feels more honest than the standard to me, from “My Silence” to “That I Believe,” and while I can’t say for certain what Nicholson is planning to do with her next trip to the recording studio, I hope she considers using Far Away Dreaming as the basic groundwork for all of her output moving forward.