Running Touch is hot off the Coachella stage – where he undoubtedly slayed guest vocals during previous collaborator Hayden James’s slots (their monster hit 'Better Together' would’ve gone off!) – and the timing for this gifted Melbourne singer/multi-instrumentalist/producer’s debut album release couldn’t be better.
Like spontaneously escaping from your humdrum life with a hot stranger you’ve just met, Carmine taps into the exhilaration of all-consuming infatuation. Opener Juno is an uncontested choon: the sound of a secret crush quickly escalating into an IRL intimate encounter. Track two – the more minimal, piano- and beats-driven My Hands, which navigates one-night-stand fallout (“I know we move so well/ It was just one night, my baby”) – boasts an infectious groove that’ll nuzzle in ‘til you finally surrender to 100% song immersion: “My hands weren’t made to love you.”
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Sporadic cowbell flourishes enliven You Look Better Alone’s jazzy, loop-driven arrangement. Something about the Signs riff calls to mind Chris Isaak’s sultry Wicked Game and when that tease-breakdown finally lands the payoff is huge! The pulsing Meet Me – which belongs on any decent cocktail party playlist – is a saucy l’il minx that could potentially coax us just about anywhere to do just about anything.
Stay is silky-smooth and reggae-tinged, with percussive vocal phrasing starkly contrasting soaring sustained notes. “I haven’t loved, for a minute/ Or for a long time, baby,” he eloquently confesses on I Haven’t Loved – a languorous torch-song.
Running Touch time-travels back to a house he inhabited ten years ago for standout banger Why Do I, which reflects on time spent with “my partner who made me much of who I am”. Then indecisive anthem Ceilings (“I don’t know if I’ll stay/ I don’t know what I want…”) ushers in all-consuming, hands-in-the-air euphoria. During self-help reminder It Starts With You (feat. Plini), a buzzing undercurrent pares right back to lone piano and whispered phrases before that gently pulsing beat reassuringly returns.
The two tracks that bookend Running Touch’s debut release – Juno and Carmine – form part of a song triptych starring the core characters these songs are named after. Illustrating the album’s main themes of violence and love, the gangsta-romance action doesn’t roll out chronologically, however: Carmine’s story arc actually begins with the closing title track then the plot thickens throughout opener Juno before concluding with Come With Me (track 10 of 13). (NB: You’ll adore this record with or without that stan-level intel.)
Claptone’s Charmer has previously been cited as an influence and there’s a similar panache to Running Touch’s output, sure. The versatility on display here – in terms of the record’s overall genre fluidity and Running Touch’s vocal delivery, more specifically – is staggering. Especially when you consider that Running Touch was also the founding guitarist of heavy-edged shapeshifters Ocean Grove (he’s now a studio-only member). File Carmine under “Ongoing Obsession”.
Carmine is released by Island Australia on May 6. Find out more about Running Touch by heading here.