In his all-new extended play Climbing Uphill, Austin’s own Andrew Nolte adopts a vulnerable self-awareness in his poetry that is simply mesmerizing from the moment that we first make contact with it in “My Avatar.” We follow Nolte through a forest of emotions in Climbing Uphill; he’s retrospective in the title track, angst-ridden in “Magic,” self-aware in “I Need You” and tenderly exposed in “Speak My Heart” (my favorite song from the record), and no matter the tempo or the tonality, his genuineness is conveyed not only through his words but via the melodies that accompany them in every song. This is the most driven material he’s ever stuck his name on, but more significantly, it’s one of the best EPs I’ve reviewed this September.
The title track, “My Avatar” and “Magic” are very instrumentally-focused, while the other two songs here – “Speak My Heart” and “I Need You” – are lyrical treasures, but both groups of tracks are really evocative just the same. One song spills into the next without ever skipping a beat, which isn’t all that easy to do when you’re working with the vast array of sonic colors that Andrew Nolte is in Climbing Uphill, and by the time the record concludes, it feels as though we’ve just witnessed a raw jam session as opposed to having listened to another late summer studio album. He’s remarkably vulnerable in this EP, and his candor has the sort of impact on his music that sets iconic pop music apart from the conventionally indiscernible
As far as the production quality goes, Climbing Uphill is definitely a top shelf affair, but I wouldn’t say that its mighty master mix is the exclusive source behind all of its exciting layers of tonality. Andrew Nolte is a solid songwriter, and he’s letting his hair down in songs like “I Need You” and “My Avatar” in a way that he’s never allowed for himself in past in-studio efforts. There’s nothing getting in between his art and the audience that he’s tailored it for, and if his longtime fans take to it as well as I (and a good chunk of my critical peers in the United States, Britain and Canada) have this month, there isn’t a doubt in my mind as to whether or not the mainstream spotlight will drift in his direction by the year’s end.
If you’re interested in surreal singer/songwriter nattering of the highest creative caliber, you simply cannot go wrong with what you will hear and absorb in Andrew Nolte’s Climbing Uphill, which is a record that I would deem one of the most important to emerge from his scene in 2019. The melodies are majestic, the harmonies borderline angelic, and while there’s an experimentalism in play with all of the compositions in this tracklist, it isn’t based in an avant-garde unreality that would suit hardcore audiophiles and croon connoisseurs alone. Climbing Uphill is a step into the future for Nolte, and a step closer to the fame and fortune than an artist of his talent level deserves to enjoy.