**Deluxe Orange & Yellow Vinyl**
In Australia, Tash Sultana enjoyed overnight success – literally. The Melbourne native claims to have racked up 10,000 new followers in 24 hours after posting a performance on YouTube. It didn’t stop there: these days the singer-songwriter has almost 3 million monthly Spotify listeners, and recently became the first artist to sell out three Brixton Academy dates before releasing their debut album.
It’s not easy to account for Sultana’s wild surge in popularity. In some senses the 23-year-old musician, who identifies as gender non-binary, cleaves to the Ed Sheeran model: both began their careers as buskers, both run one-person operations involving loop pedals, an unassuming nature and what appears to be plenty of hard graft. But while that mode tends to charm the public, Sultana’s work, unlike Sheeran’s, doesn’t immediately make sense as a populist product. Lacking any particularly memorable melodies, it is expansive and mellow, recalling 90s singer-songwriter fare with added R&B flavours, spacey instrumentation and psychedelic guitar wigouts.
No facet of Sultana’s debut is at all startling – and that includes the standard issue nu-bluesy vocal, complete with all the usual, strangely accented affectations. There is some distinctive subject matter: as a teenager, Sultana suffered drug-related psychosis and the lyrics allude to this hellish experience – yet with a vagueness that ensures all the songs remain palatable to the casual listener. Perhaps this benignness is the key to Sultana’s success – producing music that sounds passionate but is ultimately unwilling to disrupt anything except the charts.